A junior doctor who works at St Helier Hospital has raised more than £24,000 (and counting) for Cancer Research – just weeks after he was diagnosed with a rare and potentially terminal strain of the disease.
Dr Mark Sims, who has just turned 27, was working in the trauma and orthopaedics department at the hospital when he was told that the melanoma he had as a teenager had returned, and that this time, the cancer had spread. Without treatment, Mark would have just four months to live.
Click here to donate on Mark’s behalf.
Talking about his first diagnosis, Mark said: “When I was 15, I went to the barbers and the razor hit a bump on my head. When I got home, my mum spotted it and took me off to the GP. I was diagnosed and treated, but at the time, doctors said there was a 45% chance of me dying within four to five years. It was then that I decided I wanted to help people as I had been helped, and would like to become a doctor.
“I had just marked 10 years of being clear of cancer, when on Pancake Day, I began to experience pain in my abdomen. I didn’t think too much of it, but by 4am the next morning, the pain was unbearable. I initially thought it might be gallstones or an infection, but things changed quite quickly once I got to hospital.
“I had a chest x-ray, and it was at that point that things began to look more serious. I had a huge white area on my lung, which was later confirmed to be a tumour. I was rushed through more tests and was told that the melanoma had returned and had spread. The cause of the pain is a tumour in my liver which is stretching the organ, with additional tumours in my lung and spleen.”
Mr Najab Ellahee is an orthopaedic surgeon at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, and is Mark’s clinical supervisor. He said: “On behalf of all the team at Epsom and St Helier, I would like to pay tribute to Mark’s bravery and strength of spirit. It’s remarkable that despite such a difficult diagnosis when he was a teenager, Mark overcame the obstacles and fulfilled his ambition of becoming a doctor. Even now, his diagnosis has encouraged him to launch a huge fundraising campaign that has already raised more than £24,000 – it is truly inspirational.
“He is a wonderful, hard-working doctor who is loved by our patients and staff. We’re all thinking of him during this time.”
Talking about the reasons behind his fundraising campaign, Mark said: “My life is indebted to cancer research, including the patients who are involved in drug trials and the professionals who dedicate their working lives to trying to find new treatments and cures. Without those people I wouldn’t be here now.
“It’s difficult to say how important cancer research is – if I had received this diagnosis in 2011, I would have only lived for four months. The development in treatment means that I now have 15% chance of surviving and a much more extended life.”
Mark set up the donation page just after his diagnosis in the Royal Marsden. “I thought it would be nice to try and raise some money whilst I was cooped up in a hospital bed,” he said.