A father-of-two who was prepared to give up on life when he was diagnosed with cancer is now giving inspirational talks to fellow patients.
In September 2015, Mark Steel, 57, from Ramsbottom, Lancashire, was told he had stomach cancer. His cancer was at the junction of his oesophagus and his stomach. It spread to his liver and kidneys and he was told he had between six and nine months to live.
The news hit Mark hard and he says he feared becoming a burden to his family, wife Annette and children Aleysha, 25, and Joseph, 23, who both live at home. He initially refused treatment, and stopped eating, losing half his bodyweight and dropping to just six stone.
Mark says: “I thought there was no point in going on. I was going to die anyway and the family was going to be hurt so why not speed up the process, and then they could get over it quickly. I was in a dark place.”
He says it was a visit to his local hospice that helped to change his view along with the treatment and emotional support he and his family have received from staff at The Christie.
“Now I’ve turned it around and I realise there’s a reason for it all – that I can help other people going through what I went through.
“Having cancer has made me a better person.”
After initial treatment at his local hospital the former operations director for a heating firm was referred to Manchester’s specialist cancer centre The Christie and placed on a clinical trial. The trial, which is taking place at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Manchester Clinical Research Facility at The Christie, tests the effectiveness of a particular drug plus immunotherapy, compared to one drug. He is halfway through his two-year trial, is back to his original weight of 12 stone and is feeling well, walking his dog Brynn daily.
Mark has spoken to patients in hospices and also to medical students about his cancer experience.
He visits The Christie every two weeks for treatment in which he receives two drugs intravenously.
Mark’s consultant at The Christie, Dr Richard Hubner, says Mark is doing very well on the clinical trial, adding: “He is responding well and may well be placed on another suitable trial once this one ends next year.”
At any one time more than 600 patients are taking part in clinical trials at The Christie, which works in partnership with Manchester University and Cancer Research UK. This month The Christie charity’s annual fundraising ball raised £155,000 towards creating a world-class research centre that will replace the facility that was hit by fire in April 2017. Mark attended the ball and spoke about his experience and treatment.
The Christie charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust through its fundraising activities, and delivers projects, equipment and improvements that are over and above what the NHS funds. The charity has more than 50,000 supporters who helped raise £14.4m last year.
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust has been ranked ‘Outstanding’ by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which referred to it as ‘exceptional’ and ‘a leader in its field’. It not only commended the Trust for its effectiveness and care, but highlighted its work in shaping the future of cancer care and noted the reach and influence of its clinical research projects. The CQC also rated The Christie the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.