Anyone can get cancer – even if you’re young, fit and healthy.
Mark Matthews knows this all too well, having lost a friend to cancer at the age of 16, and then being diagnosed himself at 23.
The Weston man, who grew up in Pokolbin, was given the all-clear in February this year – 12 months after he was found to have late-stage testicular cancer.
Mark went to the doctor in February 2015 after about six months of rapid weight loss and chronic back pain.
He was diagnosed with germ-cell testicular cancer, which had spread and caused a football-sized growth around his rib cage.
All of this came just two months before he was due to marry his high-school sweetheart, Nadine.
“It was a bit of a shock, but you’ve just got to keep your chin up and keep going,” Mark said.
A couple of weeks after his diagnosis, Mark’s system started to crash.
He was hospitalised, put into an induced coma and started chemotherapy.
With the support of Nadine, his family, doctors and nurses, Mark pulled through and the couple married on April 18, 2015.
He continued his treatment and underwent major chest and abdominal surgery to remove the cancerous mass.
Close to where he now carries the scar from the surgery, Mark already sported a tattoo of the old Irish proverb “Do not resent growing old, many are denied the privilege”.
He got the tattoo a few years ago in memory of a school friend named Jess, who died from a rare form of stomach cancer at the age of 16.
“My tattoo was about somebody else’s journey, which became my journey,” he said.
”Old people aren’t the only ones who get cancer.”
Inspired by those who lost their cancer battles, and determined to beat his own, Mark entered in the 2015 Cessnock Relay For Life with a team of friends and family called the ‘Hope Bringers’.
Mark took part in the survivors’ and carers’ lap, which he said was a touching, emotional experience.
This year his team is called ‘Livin’ It Up’ – a nod to Mark’s seize-the-moment attitude towards life.
To anyone thinking about taking part in this year’s Relay For Life, Mark encourages people to “come along and be inspired”.
“I survived, I’ve made it, come out the other side and lived to tell the tale,” he said.
“Not everybody makes it, but you’ve got to hold onto the hope of those who do.”
The 2016 Cessnock Relay For Life will be held at Baddeley Park on Saturday, October 15.
Register your team at cessnockrelay.com or call Clint Ekert on 0400 158 323.
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