To fully understand Mark’s journey, it’s important to get a bit of a snapshot of Mark’s life at the time of diagnosis… He was 40 years young with a hot wife (hey, I’m the narrator, I can spin it as I want) and two wonderful daughters, Avery, aged 7 and Brooke, aged 5. He trained and raced the National Capital Race weekend run and the Army run, personal besting his time in both. He was the epitome of health, energy
and vivaciousness with a love of life like no other. He played golf and fished, and taught his girls how to play soccer and skate, and brought them fishing (both summer and winter) any opportunity he could.
Best Dad all around… in fact, he’s our Superman (aka SuperDaish)!
He had developed this annoying black spot at the back of his eye, which he had for about a year. After numerous consults with various doctors, Mark was eventually referred to Princess Margaret in Toronto. Besides the small spot that obstructed his right eye, he had NO symptoms.
On November 3, 2011, our lives had involuntarily changed forever and we were thrown into a sort of Twilight Zone that no one could ever be prepared for; he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. How could this even be possible? How does an athletic 40 year old non-smoker man get lung cancer? We were informed that the main cancer started in his lung and had metastasized to his lymph node and eye. In early January 2012, he had tested positive for a rare mutation in his genes (the EGRF mutation) that is found in approx. 10% of non-small cell lung cancer (proving once again he is a superhero... uhmm, X-men!!). Because he had this mutation, he was a candidate for a targeted treatment (amen to research!), which blocks the receptor so that it couldn’t signal the cancer cells to divide and grow. It meant taking a pill once a day with very minimal side effects.
Sixty four days after he began, it proved to be nothing short of a miracle pill. During a follow up appointment, we were told that the tumor in his eye was completely GONE, his lymph nodes were back to normal, and all the tumors in his lungs had shrunk to a mere 10% total of what it originally was! He lived a very normal life at that time, working and travelling internationally with his job, going on skidoo and fishing weekends, and being a wonderful Dad and Husband.
He was on that treatment for a year. However, consistent with reports from other cases, we were given the horrifying news that it stopped working. He underwent chemotherapy which unfortunately was not effective. Radiation to the main large tumor in his lung kept symptoms at bay but the rest of the cancer that was spreading again remained untreated.
In September 2013, they found approximately 6 tumors in his brain, which were causing optic seizures, and it had also spread to his spine, ribs and pelvic bone. He underwent full head radiation and a few rounds of Cyberknife (a cool machine that delivers a high dose of radiation to tumors). Even with all that was going on, he kept as normal of a life as his symptoms would allow. He hung out at the cottage,
played golf, fished, travelled with the girls for dance competitions (New York City was a blast!), and gymnastics meets.
His health took a turn for the worse in the summer when the cancer spread to his liver. His energy level declined considerably, his appetite disappeared; basically, his quality of life was jeopardized. Thanks to a wonderful twist of fate, the persistence and devotion of his oncologist, Dr. Paul Wheatley Price, and ground-breaking research in lung cancer, Mark began a clinical trial in September. It is the result of research stemming from that first targeted treatment he was on 2 years prior. Once again, he thrived and was given back his quality of life and he took full advantage. Unfortunately, as with the first targeted treatment, the results only lasted for a period of time… but, they were good quality months that he enjoyed with his family. In fact, during that time, after undergoing major brain surgery, he refused to let his friends and family down…He insisted on attending the 3rd Annual “Curling to Kick Cancer” event 2 days after. So, with 28 staples in his head, he was released from the hospital, got himself all dressed up in his team uniform (and looked hot, I may add!!) and happily participated in the event.
On September 4, 2015, we lost our Superman. While many would describe his death as “losing his battle with cancer”, I would highly disagree. By living a full life surrounded by family and friends during his fight with cancer, and never succumbing of the horrors of his inevitable demise, he won. The dignity he displayed and relentless vigour he prided himself makes him a hero to all us.
- Natalie Deschamps