It’s funny, you turn 40 and think you’ve got your whole life mapped out; years left to do all the things you’ve always wanted to do. You’ve wasted away your younger years, putting things off until tomorrow – plenty of time to find a girl, settle down, have children – because you believe you have time …
I celebrated my 40th in March (2018) and then was told I had a mass on my kidney and needed life-saving surgery in the Birmingham Queen Elisabeth (QE). My Kidney needed to be removed; but is was going to be ok as I had one ‘healthy’ kidney left, right? Wrong! Following surgery, my heart took most of the strain and my recovery was not going to plan. Along with my heart struggling, my healthy kidney did not work the way it should, the cancer had spread, and I was told I would not make it – there was nothing they could do!
I later found out this surgeon did a documentary on the BBC, showing how he saves people’s lives and I don’t doubt that he does a great job.
I just wanted to write what happens when it goes wrong.
So, he removed my kidney, and the cancer, but the blood supply was cut off to my working kidney. I was left in critical care for 6 days and all I can remember is hallucinating. I was told later that I only had a 2 percent chance of surviving.
I don’t know if this actually happened, but it sits clear in my mind. I remember waking up and asking what they were doing to me. They said I was on dialysis. I asked if this was for the rest of my life.... they said yes, so I pulled out the oxygen mask. I remember seeing spiders crawling across the ceiling - it was horrible. I think it was due to the drugs I was on.
My parents said the surgeon came to check on me. When I went into the operation, I weighed about 75 kg. When I came out of the surgery, I weighed 83 kg. I had that much extra fluid in me it caused heart failure …
I hadn’t got a clue what was going on. I had tubes coming out my neck, they were feeding me through a tube, and I was constantly on oxygen. I fought hard, overcoming a bleed where my line was. I had a nurse sat there all-night putting compression on it.
Dialysis, for the rest of my life – that is hard to deal with 3 times a week for 4 hours per session. I’m only allowed one litre of fluid a day, I don’t wee - that’s strange, something you're born to do and you can’t do it anymore.
But my journey doesn’t stop there, the cancer spread to my lungs. There is nothing else they can do to cure it, just slow it down.
They wanted me to start chemotherapy tablets, but then I had a bowel obstruction, the Doctor didn’t want to do the procedure, but I told him to judge me on how I looked, not what he reads in a textbook - so he operated. He told me I would need critical care, this wasn’t the case, I returned to the ward.
The recovery from the bowel obstruction was worse than the kidney. I couldn’t go to the toilet and I was in so much pain. I recovered but before they started the chemo treatment, they found a BRAIN TUMOUR! I was taken to Birmingham Queen Elizabeth for ‘Cyberknife’ radiotherapy. This was quite successful. Another few weeks went by and they started the chemotherapy. No one to tell me my hair would go white and not grow back very well, but at least I’m still fighting.
I was on my dialysis, in pain when I received a phone call saying I have another TUMOUR ON THE BRAIN, I instantly broke down and wanted to give up, but one of the doctors called me in to a side room, and told me not to make a rash decision when I was upset, I agreed.
He then asked me if he could pray for me, this blew me away, he put his hand on my head and said a prayer, it was beautiful.
My treatment tomorrow is life threatening, as all of the previous surgeries were, I’m still fighting, but no one understands how.
I also want to touch on just how stretched the NHS is. They are so stretched at times mistakes happen. Only the other day, there was a problem with the machine, I think one of the screws wasn’t tightened up correctly and there was a risk of air travelling to my heart and killing me. Four nurses aided my machine and did everything they could to save the circuit so I wouldn’t loose my blood – REMARKABLE! During this dramatic situation, I stayed calm and my blood pressure stayed stable because I felt the nurses were impeccable, it was actually a joy to watch them work.
I used to think cancer was bad, but I didn’t know it was this devastating.
I have had excellent support from my family - I would have given up a long time ago if they were not around.
How can I give up, I’ve wanted to, but every time I look at them, I can’t put them through such pain?
I lost my house; I lost my job; I lost my car; I lost friends. I had to get used to living on benefits for the rest of my life, I have worked hard and enjoyed nice things, just another thing I had to deal with.
Here I am with a pain patch and taking paracetamol for 5 BRAIN Tumours, Heart failure, Kidney failure and Bowel problems.
I was due to have 2 hip operations from a steroid injection I was given by my GP for hay fever, it worked but left me with osteoporosis. This drug they prescribed is now banned - funny that. I went to hospital twice a year and kept putting the operation off because they said the hips only last 12-15 years and I was so young.
Because of the cancer, renal failure and the fact I can’t do any manual work now, my hips aren’t a problem now, I suppose being only 55kg now helps.
I think people are too quick to moan nowadays. People moan about the simple things, not willing to try to fix things or appreciate what they have. I wish I had the time to moan and worry about little things but instead I’m taking each hour as it comes, appreciating each moment, each smile, each text, each morning.
In a time where the press is finding anything to fault and slate the NHS and especially Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital (Sath), I wanted to express my thanks and gratitude to all the staff involved in my care, for all the kind, thoughtful people on the frontline - and those behind the scenes – that go out of their way each and every day to make a difference in peoples lives.
You don’t always hear about the good stories; of how they help, the difference they make, how a simple gesture from them can change your day for the better, can make you or your family’s lives feel worthy.
From day one, I have received impeccable care. Each and every member of staff has treated me and my family with value and respect, trying to make me laugh and smile, sitting with me, crying with me, holding my hand. They’ve included my family in their caring acts, being their support too – if it wasn’t for their time and love I don’t think I’d have made it this far.
So to all the staff from my first admission to SAU, my time spent on wards 6 and 28, and my second home – the dialysis units, to the doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, right down to the guy who makes the cups of tea – they are my extended family, they’ve been there throughout my journey. I may not have long left, but I want you all to know if it wasn’t for you all, I wouldn’t have got this far. I will always be grateful – THANK YOU!
Where I am right now and how I have been for the past 2 years of continuous fighting, I thank God every single day especially for giving me a great and very supportive family as I wouldn’t have been able to handle this journey on my own. I am a fighter and I know everyone who battles against cancer is brave enough to stand the pain and the numerous treatments in order to survive.
I am genuinely asking everyone of you to join me not just in my fight against this disease but also to everyone who is afflicted with cancer and to pray for us to have the strength and faith to win in this battle. Thank you for taking your time to read my story. I hope it touched your hearts as I want to make a difference in other people’s lives in the best way I can.
After a short period in the Severn Hospice in Telford, on Saturday 29th February 2020, Mark passed away peacefully with his family by his bedside.
Thank you for your support