Early on, he walked into the office of Dr. Jonathan Glass, a neurologist who heads the ALS Center at Emory University, and announced: "I'm going to help you cure me by raising millions of dollars for your research."
Valerie didn't want to stand in his way. Still, there were so many things to do and talk about in the time Tom had left. There was their daughter's upcoming wedding, and plans for their son, who was in college.
One day, he presented Valerie with a stack of printouts on BioMark.
The information seemed to make sense — until she started reading the patient testimonials. One stood out: a 26-year-old ALS patient who had added 20 pounds of muscle in the two weeks after his treatment. "He feels incredible and is regaining strength," it said.
Valerie was dumbfounded. "This is a joke," she said. "If this is true, then everybody should be doing it around the world."
But it was futile to argue with Tom and always had been.
He was taking 28 pills and lozenges a day. No therapy seemed too outlandish. He tried curative magnetic insoles. He spent two weeks in Tijuana getting ozone treatments that were supposed to remove toxins from his body.
By the spring of 2003, he had dropped to 146 pounds, down from his healthy 172.
There was still time for hope. In June he summoned the energy to walk his daughter, Meredith, down the aisle at her wedding. He danced with her to the song "My Girl" while tearful guests looked on at the reception.
Tom threw himself into setting up a BioMark injection.
"They normally charge $21,000 but they want to be listed on my website," he wrote on a notepad.
He got the fee down to $10,000.
At least he had bargained, thought Valerie, who was starting to worry about all the money that seemed to be disappearing into a black hole of cure-alls.
On July 18, Tom received an e-mail from BioMark. For the time being, the closest place he could receive an injection was Toronto.
"I Am spending so much for my HEALTH NOW," Tom wrote on instructions to wire the $10,000 to BioMark's account at Bank of America in Atlanta.
The next week, Tom and Valerie flew to Toronto and took a taxi to a clinic. In the waiting room, Dr. Christopher Goddard was finishing up with another patient, a man with multiple sclerosis who had just received an injection.
For the next hour and a half, Valerie grilled the doctor about his credentials and the treatment. He told her he was a physician with a doctorate who worked at Lifebank Cryogenics Corp., a Canadian company that stores umbilical cord blood. BioMark paid him to fly from Vancouver, British Columbia, to administer the injections.
There was still time to back out and get their money returned.
Valerie looked at Tom hunched in a wheelchair. She knew this was his last hope.
SELLING SCIENTIFIC PROMISE