One Year On

It is my pleasure to announce that I’ve now survived for one complete year and two days from diagnosis of stage four malignant melanoma. The length of time is presumably longer since being stage 4, but we will never know the actual date. It has been a group effort and you’re all a part of that. Nothing short of it, I could not have got this far on my own. This is a very large thank you list.

Saskia – the Skin Cancer Nurse Specialist who told me the diagnosis and invited me to speak at her conference. A clip from my speech appeared in “Before I Kicked the Bucket: The Whole Story”.

The SHO who admitted me and was very proactive in getting both an ultrasound and CT scan so quickly. As well as knowing that Saskia would take over my care so aptly. 

Mum – for being there every single step of the way. She’s only missed one appointment. 

Dad – for endlessly seeming to ruin his holidays! 

Dave – for being the better twin and letting me be his best man. 

Alice – for being Dave’s rock in all of this and letting me stay in their flat rent free.

Matt – for asking too many questions to the doctors 

Matt and Alexia – for putting me up for a few days after my third hospital admission. 

Paul – for his endless support, for his persistent and constant literature reviews on melanoma. I had to question him whether he knew the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest because I was starting to think he was doing a medical degree on the sly. 

The family – for their love, support and endless commitment. I see too many people come to appointments alone. I usually go with an army. 

Marilyn and Keith – for the support you have given to the whole family. 

Bradshaw and Manning – for taking my stuff from Kingston Hospital to the Marsden after I was unexpectedly found out that I wasn’t going back to Kingston.

My team at the Royal Marsden – particularly Nikki Hunter my CNS, Prof Gore and Dr Spain, the registrar I have seen the most for good continuity of care. Dr Larkin and the rest of the team need to be mentioned here as well, because of their expertise. They would have had lots of input in my case both, behind the scenes and at various multi disciplinary team meetings (weekly cancer meetings). Both Prof Gore and Dr Larkin have had huge input in all the trials, with the Marsden typically being the largest recruiter to the immunotherapy trials internationally. Therefore they are the most experienced melanoma oncologists in the world. When treatments are so new that you’re pretty much a guinea pig that’s very reassuring. To put it simply, I’m in exceptional hands. 

Dabrafenib – well goes without saying. Absolute life saver. 

Steroids – for acutely saving my life. 

A quite specific thank you to “Pembrolizumab for advanced melanoma not previously treated with ipilimumab” NICE technology appraisal guidance [TA366] Published date: November 2015. Conveniently came out a month early than previously suggested on their website, literally in time for me to have pembro. 

James Allison – (Who’s he?) the inventor of ipilimumab and therefore immunotherapy for cancers. Due for the Nobel prize for medicine. I’m sure you’ll all agree very well deserved. See this interview, at least for a bit, he’s just so unassuming despite saving countless lives and creating not just a new drug but a whole class of drugs. Absolute hero, thanks! James Allison

Kieran, Lucy, Dave and Alice – for negating wedding presents and asking their guests to donate to my page instead. Furthermore for giving us a fantastic wedding weekend.

Bradshaw and Bex – for kindly putting me up for six weeks. 

Bradshaw and Westminster School – for letting me talk in such a prestigious venue.

John Cabot CTC and Mr. Wilson – for inviting me back and organising a non-uniform day.

Leicester Medical School – for being damn good. 

Leicester Students Union – for their donations plus getting donations for two varsity matches and thinking of me one year on. 

LMRFC – for just being great, great calendar, great fundraising, great club. Also loads of them did the Leicester half marathon. 

Nick Robson – for doing the Leicester marathon.

Everyone else who’s raised or donated a single penny to my cause, the list is far too large but thank you!

Wales and Co (Before I Kick The Bucket) – Huw and Rowena – not just for giving me the opportunity to be on TV, but for being great friends too. 

Lynn from CRUK – for being my ‘handler’ (she does not know I call her that), but seems fitting as she has organised a lot of my charity work and the news appearances on BBC, ITV and London Live.

All the newspapers and articles – well all the media really. If just one person stops using a sunbed or more parents coat their kids in sunscreen, I will feel I’ve done my bit. Plus please give up smoking – it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. 

To all the people who have let me stay anywhere rent free. I haven’t paid any rent for over six months now and to be honest I’m not entirely sure how other patients can survive. I get personal independance payment (previously disability living allowance), something I did not ask for and despite being a doctor had no idea I was entitled to it. It’s not a lot of money and would not go a long way if I was paying rent, especially in London, for a place that was clean and not damp.

Matt Smith – for being the hero of Leytonstone and being a very very good friend and asking me to be his best man. 

Rachel – for being Matt’s better half.

Gavin – for letting me be his best man and throwing a thoroughly enjoyable wedding. 

The readership – wow you’ve been amazing, like I said at the beginning I had not written much before. But I think my style has improved so thanks for bearing with it. I’ve had over 60000 hits and I get hits from countries I’ve never been to.

Rob and Rachel – for endless twittering.

Dr Deveson – for pointing out #topdoc15 to me.

BMA – for giving me the prize.

Davide – for being inspired to do the 10k.

Croydon friends – You’ve been great.

University friends – You’ve been great. 

JJ Appreciation Society – You’ve been great.

Bristol friends – You’ve been great.

Rich Rainbow – for his support to my CV, after two years of trying to publish some of my work in the lab, he now can’t stop publishing papers. He has also convinced the medical school to name a prize in my honour too. I hope you make Prof someday!

Leicester A&E – For giving me a job, which was quite a risk, it turned out to be a large waste of time for them but I thoroughly enjoyed every shift. The nicest moment was a patient saying I was the happiest doctor they had ever met. 

Gary and Georgia – My old scout leaders, for continuing to fundraise throughout the year and collecting money at their annual hiking competition the Rikard Shield. 

Georgie’s housemates and her friends too – the only apology on this list and that’s for stealing all of her time! They are all my friends now too.

Georgie’s family (Kevin, Gillian, Jona, Felicity and of course Smartie and Skittles) – for being unbelievably accepting and just lovely people (and cats). 

Georgie – and I’m not embarrassed to say this I shed a tear writing this, for being my everything, making me happy and giving me something to live for. I’m not going to lie, every time I read what I’ve written I smile again and a bit of tear comes out. I cannot and will never be able to thank you enough. 

And lastly anyone I have missed – thank you.

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11 thoughts on “One Year On

  1. Nice to see your blog , and you already know this , your very lucky to have such a great family and circle of friends and last but not least your beautiful fiancé , xxx

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  2. Wonderful that you’ve made this milestone Mark. Your a survivor whose defied the stats and an inspiration to everyone. Enjoy reading your blog and you well deserve the support and honours for what you’ve achieved. Support and love to you and your Mum. Sue and I are poetry friends ❤🍀

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  3. Hi Mark,just read yours and Georgie’s story in the Thats life magazine.I live in Australia and just wanted to let you both know I’m thinking of you both and praying for your beautiful love story to continue with lots more happy and healthy time together. Love from someone caring for you from Australia. xx

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  4. Thank you to you Mark for showing us that it is possible to live through something so scary, so life changing with such a strength and courage, love for life, positivity, sense of humour and realism. You are an inspiration for all of us. We are very grateful to Davide to give us the chance to know you and your beautiful family. We are with you everyday of your life with our silent prayers and thoughts. With much love Elisabetta and the Bertone family

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