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The Reality of Cancer - Marks Story

09 Jan

In the summer of 2016, Mark Hollands-Martel discovered a lump on his neck. Certain that it was nothing to worry about, but keen to get it removed, Mark visited his local GP for advice. He was told by a number of doctors to just ‘monitor’ the lump and record any changes. However, Mark had a gut feeling that something wasn’t quite right and pushed for more tests. A biopsy was eventually taken in November, and Mark’s life was “changed forever”. On the 1st December 2016, Mark was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 50.

Mark says; “Nothing could prepare me for the moment when I was told of my diagnosis. I was confident the biopsy was nothing to worry about and was sure I would be able to breeze in and out of the appointment.  Little did I know; my life would never be the same and the year ahead would be the worst of my life. There were tons of people in the room and I knew straight away it wasn’t good news. I remember walking out to my car and just thinking, where do I go from here?”

Following the devastating diagnosis, Mark was referred to haematology for further tests to determine how to best treat the cancer. He was originally advised to have 3 courses of CHOP chemotherapy (a combination of cancer drugs used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma) and a stem cell transplant.

Mark adds; “I was in a complete daze and was finding it hard to believe it was happening to me. I was advised to start chemotherapy straight away (January 2017) but I was determined to do my own research and find the right route for me. I used my private insurance to get a second opinion from a different doctor, but the treatment options remained the same. Keen to avoid a stem cell transplant, I embarked on more research, aware that I was delaying treatment and anything could happen.”

In February 2017, nearly a month after Mark was told to start chemotherapy, he found a solution that would make all the difference.

“Don’t ever be satisfied with the first opinion you get, even the 2nd. I was adamant there was something else out there for me. Luckily, thanks to my dear friend Debbie Elliott I was introduced to Kirsty Ettrick, the CEO of London Medical Concierge, a service which can put you in touch with leading specialists from around the world. Within days of discussing my case with Kirsty, I was in touch with leading Consultant Haematologist, Dr Robert Marcus and an appointment was scheduled for the following week. I will be forever grateful to Kirsty for finding me Dr Marcus. He went above and beyond!

Dr Marcus arranged for Mark to have a PET scan and it was bad news - the cancer had spread and was now on the other side of the neck.  Dr Marcus advised 6 courses of CHOP chemotherapy, every three weeks, followed by a three-week break. Then three weeks of radiotherapy.

“The first thought in my mind was that I wouldn’t get the chance to propose to my partner. I planned a trip to Florence for March 2017 and was determined to see it through. My partner, Nathan, had been my absolute rock through it all and I wanted to show him how much I loved him. Nothing was going to stop me! Luckily, Dr Marcus said I should go and enjoy the trip and we would start chemo when I got back”.

Following a successful trip (he said yes!), I got straight into chemotherapy at the Leaders in Oncology Care (LOC). 

Whilst I was on my trip, Dr Marcus had been to a conference and learnt of a test that would mean I wouldn’t need a stem cell transplant and instead I could have radiotherapy to the localised area. The test was done, and it was good news – I wouldn’t need a stem cell transplant!”

Half way through the chemotherapy course, I was told more good news…I was in remission! Although I had to carry on and finish my chemo and radiotherapy, it’s a day I will never forget.

Something has to be said for those having gone through cancer treatment. No one really talks about the emotional strain it has. Ok, yes, it’s great to have the all clear but is it really? What if it comes back, you always have that going on in your mind, even the slightest niggle you get. Perhaps it’s too fresh or something. It changes you forever. But in a strange way it makes you appreciate the important stuff.

This year was all about mental and physical recovery and learning to appreciate and enjoy myself again. Bring on 2019 and the wedding of the year.”

To read more about Mark’s story, visit:

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