Mark read a lot of accounts from people who had come through Cancer and was very inspired by their stories and experiences. This helped him get through the hard times, helped prepare him for treatment and gave him a better understanding of what Cancer was.
Mark wanted to share his experience of Cancer to help others and began to write his story during his own treatment and his wife, Leah has picked up where he left off.
It is a bit of a tough read, but we hope you find it worthwhile.
Mark wanted to share all the details of his story, to help others undergoing cancer treatment. His goal was to provide support to those who needed it and show people that you can get through it if you stay positive, focus on getting better and do the things you want to, when you want to – even when you have a bad day, because believe me – Mark had those as well.
Mark’s cancer was tragically too advanced for him to recover and he passed away after 11 months of fighting, but there was no way he would have got as far as he did, or survive as long as he did, had he not had the positivity or determination to keep going and complete the things most important to him. Even though Mark did not overcome cancer, he did get through each day and with the greatest of strength.
Mark Gorry was 23 when he began to suffer from severe pain across the centre of his back during the summer of 2008. He visited the GP and was told that all was ok and it was nothing to worry about. We thought it could be due to the amount of time he spent driving as part of his new job as a Solutions Designer. The pain however, did not subside and in September of 2008, Mark noticed a lump in his neck. After visiting the doctor, Mark was told it was the due to being run down and it was a swollen gland, and sure enough it went down within a few days.
In the run up to Christmas, Mark starting suffering from headaches and even earache at some points and so visited the doctor a few times. He was told he had an ear infection and it was nothing to worry about. On his follow up appointment, the doctor he saw was a locum, he immediately noticed that Mark had signs of being jaundiced and decided to run some blood tests. On Christmas Eve, Mark was diagnosed with a liver infection and told to drink plenty of water and return for a check up within 6 weeks. From there on, he got steadily worse.
It was the day after Boxing day when Mark collapsed and was taken to the local hospital by ambulance. After struggling to stabilise Mark for some time, he was eventually admitted for further tests. Mark underwent a series of biopsies on his liver, scans and blood tests before being diagnosed with a Teratoma with no primary site. This meant he had the Symptoms of testicular cancer but with no primary lump in his testes. His immediate response was that he thought he was going to die but as the shock settled, Mark realised that if he was receiving treatment, then he had a fighting chance. Even at such a tough part of his life, Mark still focused on the positive side and was absolutely amazed that one of the tests that diagnosed his condition was a pregnancy test – and he was showing as pregnant! We never heard the last of that one.
The start of Mark’s journey for him, was telling his family. Mark asked me to call all his close family and ask them to come up to the hospital immediately. I went down to greet everyone and lead them all up to his room and remember thinking ” This can’t be happening.” When we returned, Mark had sat himself up in bed and was ready for a fight! He had been told less than an hour before that he had Cancer and was seriously ill and here he was pitching his case to his family! I’ve never seen anything so inspirational in all my life. He said , “Right, I’ve had some tests and had a pregnancy test and it came back positive – so I’m pregnant!” Everyone in the room looked at each other, and Mark’s mum nearly had kittens! He then explained what it meant for him and everyone else, “I’ve got Cancer, and I’m gunna need all your help to get through this.” As the shock began to hit everyone and tears fell, Mark hushed everyone up and true to form, just kept talking. During the whole episode, 2 paramedics and a trolley were waiting on the other side of the door.
It was so dramatic. Because Mark’s cancer had spread to his liver, lungs and lymph nodes and was very aggressive, he was transferred to Clatterbridge to begin immediate Chemotherapy. He began his first treatment on New Year’s Day 2009. The start of a very long, hard year.
As soon as Mark began his Chemo, he had a bad reaction and was literally out for the count for about 3 or 4 days, sleeping, talking gobbledy gook and not making much sense at all. In addition to this, he started to retain all of the chemo in his body and was unable to flush it out properly taking him from about a 32 inch waist to a 42 inch waist in just a few days.
Mark thought this was really funny, especially when he started to respond and honestly lost a whole stone over night! Later, we found out that if his body had continued to swell, his treatment would have been stopped, as his body would have been unable to handle it. In true Mark style, that never happened and he took every session of Chemo like he was eating a bag of sweets – Haribo to be exact. When you have cancer, the amount of cancer is measured by what’s known as Tumour markers. Mark’s tumour markers were initially very, very high and Mark was amazed to see them drop after his first 5 days of treatment by 50%. He was absolutely thrilled and called everyone in tears to tell them that the treatment was working – it was a very special day indeed.
During those first 3 weeks of January, Mark received so much support from his family and his many friends and we began to accumulate a load of stuff which Mark would bring back to the hospital every time he was in. We had Chelsea stuff (he was a mad Chelsea fan), Liverpool bears (a wind up from some of his friends), scarves, hundreds of cards and many good luck charms left at the end of everyone’s visit along with millions of bags of sweets and Haribo. Mark ended up not being able to eat any as he had eaten so many of them!
By the time Mark came out of hospital, on about the 21st January, he looked like a completely different person. He’d wanted to shave his head ready for when the Chemo kicked in and had a fully-grown beard. He was tired, weak but had so much determination to see Cancer off, good and proper. The next few months were very hard for Mark, he of course lost all of his hair, lost a lot of weight and the Chemo really affected his skin. His confidence in his appearance was really low, not to mention the fact that he would throw his guts up at every opportunity. Mark was very determined to keep eating, despite the sickness, as he knew how important it was to stay strong.
He even carried on stuffing his face when the mouth ulcers started. It was so painful to watch him have to chew every mouthful 100 times as he couldn’t open his mouth very far. I can’t imagine how it felt for him to be eating 5 or 6 meals a day plus snacks in between with a mouth full of the biggest ulcers you’ve ever seen. He just got on with it as if it was another little test. I would have given him an A*.
Mark had 2 goes at a Chemo called EP and then four 5 day cycles of BEP and finally finished in April 2009. One of Mark’s tumour markers at this time was at a normal level, the other was only slightly raised. This is quite common during treatment as the Chemo will continue to work for some weeks after the last dose. It was at the end of April, beginning of May, that Mark asked when he would be in remission. Mark’s consultant said he didn’t like to use the word and ‘remission’ only meant under control. The trick was for the Cancer to stay away.
Never the less, as Mark’s markers were under control, he was in remission and we partied!! We had a huge barbeque to celebrate Mark’s news and started to live again without the shackles of going through the treatment. Mark wanted to go on holiday, so we booked a few breaks away in a lodge as due to the high levels of Chemo he had received, it was advised not to fly for at least 12 months. This was something that Mark wished he had gone and done anyway despite this advice, later in the year. Mark was back and to from the hospital having blood tests to keep a close eye on the Cancer and it was at the end of June that he received a phone call for an emergency appointment. Mark was crushed. He literally kept ringing his consultant’s secretary, as he really needed to hear what was going on without waiting for his appointment. He was relentless!
His consultant confirmed that the cancer had begun to grow again and was growing quickly, explaining that Mark needed to start a new regime of Chemo asap. Mark was booked in to begin salvage Chemo (TIP) the following week and it was explained to us that if it didn’t work, chances of a cure for Mark’s case were very slim indeed. The next few days were really tough. We were all devastated and for a short time, Mark’s spirit seemed to waiver, this was probably the lowest point so far. I remember crawling into bed on the day we found out and saying I wanted to stay there until September when it would be all over. We lay there and cried. Not for too long though, because Mark was hungry and had treatment to prepare for.
Mark had tickets for him and my dad to see Oasis in Manchester for the day after he found out he had to restart treatment. At first, Mark didn’t want to go as he was in a bad place, but I remember him saying that they may never play together again and he wasn’t going to miss it. So they went and Mark really did have the best time, singing along to every song on my dad’s shoulders.
We both cried all the way to Clatterbridge on the Tuesday morning, it was awful, especially when we got there and some of the wonderful nurses that treated Mark didn’t know the cancer was back. They were so upset too as Mark had such a strong relationship with them. He was always winding them up, asking loads of questions and hugged them all as much as he could! I think he had a thing for nurses. They literally never got any peace and loved him for it. Most of the funniest stories of Mark with the nurses are completely unprintable as Mark’s language was always very colourful, inappropriate but very very funny.
TIP Chemo was much tougher and nastier than BEP. Along with the longer stint in hospital, came a whole new set of side effects. Out went the ulcers and what we now know was mild sickness, and in came projectile vomiting, skin infections that would rival Kevin and Perry off that film from years ago and the complete breakdown of his immune system. Mark was in and out of hospital between treatments with infection after infection, as he honestly had no immune system left. It really was harsh stuff and knocked him for six. At his heaviest in January, he was nearly 14 stone and was now down to just under 8 stone at his lightest – it was shocking to see.
Mark was due to be 24 in August, during his planned stay for his last bout of Chemo and wanted to push the treatment back a week so he could be at home but couldn’t as it was vital to keep battering the cancer with the treatment. So we decided to bring his birthday to him and arranged a surprise Hawaiian themed party in the hospital staff room. It was cool. He was so surprised to see everyone in fancy dress and really enjoyed the day, I still have the text he sent me on that day to say that the party was amazing and that he was going to beat the cancer for us all. His spirit was amazing.
Once Mark’s treatments had finished Mark decided we were going to a lovely hotel in Leeds that had been recommended to us, purely because he wanted to take me to Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie. He was really secretive all day and extra stressed out with me whilst I was trying to navigate the one-way system. The chemo certainly hadn’t affected his ability to be the worst passenger ever.
When we reached the hotel, Mark insisted that I wait in the lobby whilst he went up to the room first. After a glass of champagne and a 15 minute wait, he finally appeared and I had permission to go upstairs. He had booked the penthouse suite and decorated the room really nicely. On the night we visited the brasserie (the food was amazing by the way) Mark finally proposed! After 6 years of waiting, he’d finally done it, and it was definitely worth the wait.
We both knew that whilst the cancer was under control at the minute, it returned within 7 weeks last time, so we wanted to book the wedding immediately. We booked it for 8 weeks time – the 17th October and the planning began, with the help of my maid of honour Paula and anyone that could help! Mark only had one specification about the wedding, he wanted the buffet from a local social club because he loved the Ribs. This meant that location was a problem as they were booked but could do outside catering for us. Mark just wouldn’t budge so we booked a room big enough for 200 and Mark got his Ribs.
Mark had been doing some work on planning to set up a foundation to raise awareness for Testicular Cancer and to raise money for Clatterbridge and had volunteered to take part in a documentary for ITV on Testicular Cancer. Mark wanted to tell his story and inspire other young men going through Cancer. He had already been filmed going for his scan when they accompanied us to his first results appointment at the local hospital. It was three weeks before the wedding, and the consultant advised that so far everything was static and we were not to have another appointment until after the wedding, and to enjoy ourselves. Mark was thrilled. We were filmed telling the results to the production team and it was very emotional.
Mark was so excited and couldn’t stop saying he had beat it. We went straight home and told as many people as we could and out came the Champagne again, not for Mark though he didn’t drink. I definitely drank more than both of our share and followed Mark to bed at about 1 o’clock in the morning. It must have been about 4 am when I woke up to Mark screaming at the top of his voice. He was all contorted and seemed to be stuck shouting Leah.
I realised very quickly that he was having a fit. I phoned an ambulance and off we went to hospital. When Mark came round, he could remember the fit and that it had hurt and that he was trying to wake me up. As we were in A and E, Mark continued to have a number of fits, which was terrifying to watch, in fact as he had more, I started to panic realising that something could be seriously wrong. I thought that maybe he had developed Epilepsy and was sobbing my heart out outside the ward thinking how distraught he would be when he found out he couldn’t drive. I don’t think I could accept that things could be any worse than that at that moment. Eventually, Mark was back from a CT scan and the consultant approached me to tell me that they suspected that Mark’s cancer had spread to his brain. They could see 3 tumours and all three of them had haemorrhaged at the same time. I was in absolute shock.
I called my Mum and Mark’s Auntie Janet and whilst Mark was being stabilised, I just sat outside the hospital waiting for someone to arrive. I think that day was the most desperate I felt, waiting for someone to confirm that there’s nothing else that can be done is completely horrendous. The worst thing was that Mark did not yet know what was going on.
It was the next day that Mark woke up and he immediately knew that it was serious. He could not use the left hand side of his body and was still having constant tremors from the haemorrhages. In true Mark fashion he asked what was going on and so he was told. I have no words to explain how Mark felt and if I am completely honest, I don’t think I could even begin to imagine. One thing I do know is that he did not waste any time dwelling on those feelings.
He was only concerned about those he was leaving behind and that he would not do all the things he said he would do in his life. He wanted to make the most of every moment regardless of the situation he was in. Mark worked hard to build his strength back up and had loads of physio, regaining the use of his left side fully. We got married on the arranged date and in Mark’s words “It was the most special day of our life”. His highlight was the Aston Martin we had hired, although he couldn’t drive it he definitely got the most out of it Mark passed away 7 short weeks after we were married but through his pure passion for life, was out shopping for Christmas presents up until 2 days before he fell asleep. Mark didn’t have the choice to live, but he was adamant that he would go on his own terms and that, he did.
We are all so passionate about making Mark’s foundation a success. The main reason behind that is that we have all learnt so much from Mark and watched in awe at how he stepped up to the mark during his final months. Mark’s message, from his heart, is that it is so important to ‘Keep an eye on the ball’, as early detection could have prevented him from being in the situation he was. Mark wanted to spread the word about Testicular cancer and let lads know how to check themselves, what to look out for and encourage young men to visit a GP if they are worried about any changes at all to their balls.
Thank you for reading Mark’s story.