Mark is the kind of guy you’d least expect to be diagnosed with cancer – a happy and hardworking family man planning the trip of a lifetime.
After his diagnosis, Mark was prepared to tackle the disease head on. Even with his never-give-up attitude, having another support network he could rely on helped guide him through the unexpected challenges of cancer. This is Mark’s Story.
As a 55-year-old man, happily married with 3 healthy children – a loving family – great friends – a job that I love and a healthy active lifestyle – life has been kind to me.
As Christmas approached in 2017, so did the anticipation of our first ever full family holiday – a trip of a lifetime to Japan to hit the snow. We had saved for a few years deciding to do something different from our usual surfing trips.
For several months I had observed a small lump in my neck. I booked in to see our family doctor who subsequently booked me in for several tests. It wasn’t painful, so I was far from concerned barely giving it another thought – luck had always been on my side.
The Cancer Diagnosis
A phone call from my doctor on Dec 28th, 2017 put all future plans on hold. I was diagnosed with stage 2 head and neck cancer – it had found its way into the lymph nodes in my neck and the base of my tongue.
In those hours that followed the phone call, I was immediately catapulted into this world of uncertainty as I started to uncover what lie ahead – it was a most uncomfortable experience. Informing my loved ones was tough and emotional, the passing of my beautiful dad in that same period crushed me bad – my luck had certainly run out.
Whilst on the inside I was rattled – on the outside I pushed on. Just deal with it I thought – harden up – she’ll be right!!
Life and routine as I knew it pretty much ceased at that point. My total focus moved to dealing what was in front of me. I started the treatment confidently. At 6’2 and 95kg I had prepared myself physically and mentally, in fact I was almost looking forward to the fight.
Initial exploratory surgery followed by standard teeth removal instantly made eating tough. An 8-week chemotherapy course combined with a daily radiation treatment plan for 7 weeks was prescribed.
5 weeks into treatment I was admitted to hospital – Physically I had withered quickly, palliative care medication was ramped up to help deal with the situation. I remember thinking Wow this whole thing is way worse than I expected. By treatment end I weighed 61kg – doubt had entered my mind – my sense was that I was pretty close to the edge, the looks on my kids faces only confirmed that thought.
My Saviors – Solaris Cancer Care Centre.
The love and support from family and friends combined with full time care from my wife was clearly critical. However, it was the care from strangers that touched me in a powerful way, it was spiritually enlightening.
My first experience with Solaris was during a Chemo session. As lovely lady walked purposefully towards me, my initial thought was that she must have mistaken me for someone else – so genuine, so concerned, so caring to me, a total stranger – would you be interested in a Reiki session? Weirdly it was something I had been considering.
That treatment gave me some respite for the next 24 hours and over the following months I became a regular visitor. Not only benefiting from the treatments, but that genuine care from total strangers was a highlight for me – I am truly grateful for that experience. I made a commitment in my mind during that time – that when I was able, I would repay these people, this place in some way.
As things were looking better towards the back end of 2018, routine tests revealed more cancer had been detected in the RHS of my neck. As I would not survive more radiation / chemotherapy treatment, surgery was the only option. Another spell in hospital, the removal of 40 lymph nodes, zipped up with 50 stitches and back to work I go. My visits to Solaris continue, sometimes for treatments but often to say hello to those wonderful people and volunteers.
Whilst currently I am not out of the woods, I am back working, surfing and planning a new trip with my family to Japan. I am proud to say I have been active with Solaris offering my services and contacts to assist in fundraising activities.
More recently I was humbled to be asked to act an Ambassador for Solaris for the next year. Something I am honored to undertake – it is my way of giving back to this wonderful Organization.
My hope is that through my efforts, more people suffering from the effects of cancer will continue to have access to the services as I did.
Now that my luck and health has returned, I can use my influence and motivation to raise the much-needed funds for this incredible free support service as well as promoting the exceptional role that the Solaris Cancer Care outlets perform in our Community.
I hope that you will join me in supporting Solaris Cancer Care in whatever way you can, whether you choose to become a Red Sky Rider, a volunteer member of the ride support crew, you attend the wonderful Solaris fundraising events or you donate a few spare dollars. It all helps and can make the world of difference to someone going through their cancer journey.
2018 Ambassador: Clare Lubich
Clare is a young, vibrant single mother of two, always looking to put others first. When diagnosed with cancer, she felt like she was battling cancer alone, and reached out for a helping hand.
When was going through cancer I felt fearful and alone, I was facing radiation treatment after already undergoing two surgeries. I was worried about how this would affect my teenage daughters; I wanted to be strong as I have always been there for them. With no other family in Perth, I wondered who would be there for me.
Solaris Cancer Care became my sanctuary, a welcome island in a very turbulent and grey sea. The centre gave me the strength I needed.
I came across the Cottesloe support centre, through a recommendation by one of their clients; she was on her own cancer journey. From the moment I walked in, I knew I was in the right place.
I have embraced everything on offer at the centre. There is a wide and encompassing selection of all that is needed in helping, supporting and complementing your treatment and wellness program. What I loved the most is, it is about taking control over parts of your health journey and feeling empowered and nurtured along the way.
I initially started with the much-needed support group and then progressed to an amazing array of courses, talks, and classes. I have loved the people I have met and the experiences I have had. There’s a positive and uplifting atmosphere and a real sense of support.
I am so thankful and grateful for the support that was so generously given to me on my road to a healthy and happy life.
2017 Ambassador: Ryan Doran
For many of us turning 21 is a milestone, our proper introduction into adulthood laced with excitement, optimism, and adventure. When diagnosed with cancer at a young age, Ryan faced the challenge with courage and positivity.
Sometimes feel that my story is not worth everyone hearing due to it being too positive, from my point of view I didn’t experience too many days where I was feeling down, didn’t have too many symptoms of someone going through this type of illness. I had so much support from my family and friends to the point where I ended up hanging out at a mate’s places almost every day, and consumed enough café breakfasts to put a large dent in dad’s credit card and for this, I can’t thank everyone enough.
Read more: Ryan Doran 2017 Ambassador
2016 Ambassador: Emma White
Emma White is in one word, exuberant. Born and raised in Bunbury, WA she now is now living her dream as a paramedic in Perth.
‘Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.’ This is how I have been living my life for the past six months. When there is a needle I didn’t want to have or a scan I was scared to do; all I needed was a few seconds of courage then it would be over or it would be more manageable.
Read more: Emma White 2016 Ambassador
2015 Ambassador: Fiona Boyce
Former Olympian and professional hockey player, Fiona Boyce, realised her love for the sport when she began joining in with her older brother’s hockey sessions at about 4 years of age.
Her choice to become an Ambassador for SolarisCare is closely linked with her recent battle with stage 2B Hodgkins Lymphoma. The athlete said that being a Red Sky Ride Ambassador provides her with the opportunity to give back after receiving so much care and support from the Foundation.
Read more: Fiona Boyce 2015 Ambassador
2014 Ambassador: Julia Pangbourn
In August 2008 I noticed that something didn’t feel quite right in my right breast, so I went to my GP for a check-up. From that initial consultation it became a whirlwind of appointments – firstly a mammogram, then an ultrasound and finally a core biopsy of the breast. The results came back that I had multiple sarcomas and I was given the news that because of the number of lumps I would have to have a mastectomy. After this news sunk in I decided that “just in case” I would prefer to have a bilateral mastectomy as I didn’t want to find cancer in my left breast at a later stage.
Read more: Julia Pangbourn 2014 Ambassador
2013: Rosannagh Carslaw
2012: Chadia Scheel
2011: Simone Timms
2010: Sarah Jane Mitchell
2009: Rachel Mann
2008: Carys Gilbert