“My Voice” by Mark Porter

Mark Porter and his children.

I was driving in my car on May 3rd, 1998 when I felt a dull ache in my groin. It felt like a bit of cramp, so I wasn’t too worried about it. The following day, when I got up, the ache was back. With every day that passed the pain increased. After about a week whilst I was in the bath I checked all around my groin. It was slightly swollen. Then I decided to check my testicles. My left one seemed fine, but the right one had a lump. The next day I made an appointment to see the doctor. When she examined me she said it was an infection nothing to worry about. She gave me antibiotics, but just to be on the safe side she make me an appointment for a scan.

Two weeks passed by and the lump hadn’t gone. I was quite concerned when my scan date came through for October. I telephoned the hospital to explain that I didn’t want to wait that long and I was anxious. They then changed the appointment for four weeks later.

In July I went for an ultrasound of my testicles. I was told the results would take about 10 days to get to my doctors. I went home and within 15 hours received a call from the hospital. I had my orchidectomy and lymph nodes removed less than three days later. After the op, I was told it should be good news as bloods were taken and tumour markers were normal.

I went back for my results a couple of weeks later and was told it was cancer. I was physically sick there and then. A nurse helped me. I could see the devastation on my brother’s face. It was the only time I ever got upset by my illness.

I was transferred to an oncologist sent for a CT scan. When I went for the results of this scan a few days later, I was elated to be told that the cancer was encapsulated. My bloods were clear and they would just be keeping an eye on me. I was ecstatic.

Throughout August and September I tried to get my life back on track, but it was harder to do week by week.

I was so drained. The emotional and physical aspect of it had taken it’s toll on me. It was time to recharge my batteries so I booked a holiday. I went to the Greek Island of Kos. On my return, I hadn’t even got through customs when my phone rang. It was the hospital. “Can you come into see the Doctor Tomorrow?” the voice said. “Yes sure no problem” I replied.

The following day I went to the hospital to see the Doctor. He asked how I was. I was then told something that meant my life was never to be the same again. “Mark I have looked at your scan again. It would be impossible for your type of cancer to be encapsulated, I’m sorry but your cancer has spread you will need to have chemotherapy.” I had a Non-Seminoma, known in the UK as Teratoma. It had spread up my back, behind my stomach & into my abdomen.

I asked what my chances were. He said he was hopeful. I asked why it hadn’t shown up in my bloods. He told me I am one of the few that don’t carry tumour markers. Then I was faced with the hardest part, which was telling my close family. The fight for survival was about to begin.

Two weeks later I started my course of chemotherapy. VP16, Bleomycin and Cisplatin were the drugs used.

I was told by the Social Security benefits office I wasn’t entitled to claim for my illness. I had no option whilst fighting this Cancer, I had to work. I am a DJ and had been for many years. I was single, so to survive financially I worked.

In the past I have won awards as a DJ but whilst I was ill I don’t think they were my better performances, but to me these were my greatest achievements. The treatment at times was hard but I kept going I tried to keep it to myself, but people stared at me I’d lost my hair my face had ballooned up with the steroids I was being given. I knew people were asking questions about my health so I made a decision to go public.

One Saturday night, live in a club full of over 1,500 people, I stood on top of the DJ console my feet either side of the decks. The light’s came on me. The pause seemed to last forever as everyone looked at me. The sweat was running down my forehead as the music went quiet. I just took a deep breath and said “I have cancer, and I will win this battle” I was absolutely amazed to see nearly every one clapping me and cheering. I was really touched. I knew this was going to spur me on in the fight. I could not lose it now.

I finished my treatment in March of 1999. The cancer had gone now and I started to rebuild my life. But Cancer was to strike my family again in 2001 when my Mum was diagnosed with terminal Liver Cancer. She like me didn’t show tumour markers.

I was finally given the all clear in 2003 some five years after my Cancer journey began. In the mean time, I’d married my beautiful wife, who I’d known for many years. I was absolutely over the moon in 2004 when she presented me with our son Luke. I was the proudest Dad on the planet that day.

The prognosis my mother had wasn’t good obviously, but she really fought and miraculously lasted 5 years. Even though she lost her battle in 2006, to me she was a survivor to have fought it so long.

All this time, I knew I wasn’t right. I’d beaten Cancer, but I was different. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Before, I wasn’t the kind of guy to lose my temper, be moody, or lethargic. I was an action man, used to galvanising kids on the dance floor. “Mr Personality” if you like. But I wasn’t any longer. I have no clue why my wife put up with me. She must be a saint!

Early in 2009 I collapsed and was rushed into hospital. They weren’t sure if I had heart problems, a cancer relapse or what was wrong.

I rang a lady, who gave me the number of Philly Morris from the “Check Em Lads” website. What a lovely guy! He spoke to me with such compassion, suggested I might have a Testosterone problem and knew just the man to help. He gave me the number of Nick O’Hara Smith who listened and was very sympathetic and knowledgeable.

I arranged a blood test at the doctors. A few days later I called and was told the test was normal. I got the numbers and checked with Nick. He suggested I print off the European Urologists guidelines and take them to my GP, which I did. Two days later my doctor sent me an email, asking me to come to his surgery. I went in and he prescribed Testosterone. It seems he’d had a chat with Nick and was happy to prescribe. In the six months since, I am feeling better, but still not right. Nick told me some guys have problems with Estrogen. My doctor, when I told him about not feeling right, surprised me by requesting all the bloods, including Estradiol, the active form of Estrogen, to see if this is the problem now.

He has taken the time to learn and is going to submit a case report. I am confident we will get it right. I hope my case will serve as education for the UK GPs, who apparently know nothing about male hormones.

Philly and Nick have really helped me get to the heart of my hormone problems. I am absolutely in total gratitude to them.

Since I have had my cancer, I have met many others who have been affected. I can honestly say that I am in awe of all the survivors out there, They are all unselfish and will listen, talk and help as much as they possibly can. I’m just an ordinary guy, like them, I suppose. But it makes me feel very humble to stand with them and join them as a survivor. I would not have done anything different. When I look into the eyes of any of my children I knew the fight was worth it.

I have been asked many times by people are you worried about getting it again. My answer is yes, I am, but if it does come back I will try and win the fight again.

I am a Survivor.