We initially dismissed Mark’s symptoms as growing pains, or a pulled muscle, as they weren’t too bad at the beginning. Mark was very sporty and active. He played football and swam competitively. Around mid-September Mark’s pain was becoming more frequent to the point he was suffering night pain and had flu like symptoms, which would keep him awake. We decided to take him straight to A&E as we instinctively knew there was something not quite right.
After an initial X-ray, Perthes disease (A condition affecting the hip joint in children) was discussed as a possible diagnosis, and an MRI was planned. We were sent home from hospital after being told the MRI scan showed nothing to worry about and that physiotherapy would be arranged.
We returned home relieved, only to have our fears resurface the next morning when the hospital phoned to say they were concerned with the scan after further investigation.
We were referred to Yorkhill Children’s Hospital in Glasgow where a biopsy was performed. After the longest ten days of our lives, we were given the devastating news that Mark had bone cancer, specifically Ewing sarcoma of his left femur. We faced the news with a million questions running through our heads unable to function well enough to make sense of anything we were being told.
Mark was so brave and continued to be throughout his 19 months after his diagnosis. He dealt with chemotherapy remarkably, no infections, no sickness and only a couple of blood transfusions throughout his treatment.
Mark was, in the words of the medical staff, a model patient which made us even more proud of him.
More bad news was to follow as the cancer had spread to his lungs and bone marrow. Not unusual for Ewing sarcoma, but reducing his chances of a positive outcome. A further MRI showed that his pelvis was diseased. Everything now hinged on how well the chemotherapy would work.
Scans showed the chemotherapy was doing its job – at last some good news!!
We crammed in as many goals as possible to keep Mark going through chemotherapy, but if the truth be told he kept us going. He never got angry or upset and continued to be positive and the cheeky joker he always was.
Unfortunately, surgery wasn’t an option for Mark due to the position of the disease. A sigh of relief for Mark, but we knew yet again this was another blow.
In April 2011, the day after his 11th birthday, Mark began high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. He spent 3 weeks and 5 days in hospital, mostly in isolation but came through it once again relatively easily.
Radiotherapy was next and seven weeks of early rises and he wasn’t fazed by this either. A quick nap in the morning and then back to business.
All we could do was wait. Mark grew stronger by the day. His MRI scan looked good, the bone marrow and his lungs were clear. He looked healthy and started his new school year in P7. What a wonderful feeling, the first time for a whole year. Normal routines returned – football, swimming and homework!
We had 2 wonderful holidays to Center Parcs and Disneyland Paris. Then in January the MRI scan showed the worst possible news, it was back and this time with a vengeance. It was back in his lungs and growing at a frightening rate.
We were told there was nothing more that could be done for Mark apart from buy him time. Time was something Mark was to run out of very rapidly. By mid-March he was struggling to walk, was losing his appetite, and becoming very weak.
We enjoyed our last family holiday at Center Parcs.
Miraculously Mark was never in any great pain, but he deteriorated so quickly it was so hard to watch. Such a fit healthy boy bursting with life just fading before our eyes.
Mark lost his fight at 6:40 am on 25th April 2012. He simply slept away with his family around him. At peace.
Mark was our hero, our inspiration and he will continue to make our hearts smile every day for the rest of our lives!