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Friends and family, I am writing to ask for your love and support during a difficult time...
Nobody expects cancer to break down the front doors and take up residence in your home, but the unfortunate reality of life is that we don't get to choose when, how, and who gets dealt this horrible hand.
What can I say about Mark McGillewie?
In some ways, I think Mark represents the best of us. A man who lives an active lifestyle free of unhealthy vices and habits. One who treats others with kindness and respect, and always has room at the dinner table for another. Who gives his heart and soul to improve the lives of others, and deserves all of the good things that the world has to offer.
When many of us are caught up in the negative aspects of life, Mark can always find the silver lining. When we let the every day 'stuff' take over, Mark is looking for opportunities to find joy and live life to the fullest. He never complains, he only strives to live a happy, active, and full life.
"Mark, you have cancer..."
It feels like a mistake or a cruel joke. Our lives have ground to a screeching halt as we accept our new reality and try to find ways to get through the darkest time we have faced. Our only possibility is to keep moving forward so Mark can recover and get back to the things he loves in life: his family, snooker, and his career.
Mark noticed a thick growth on the side of his neck. It didn't cause any pain or discomfort. We assumed it was a swollen gland and ignored it, hoping it would subside soon.
With the growth looking bigger and showing no signs of going away, we began to get nervous and made an appointment with the doctor.
After several blood tests which came back clear and an ultrasound that was inconclusive, the doctor took a biopsy from the growth in his neck. We anxiously awaited the results, and when the doctor called us back in, we got the news.
We were immediately referred to the top ENT cancer specialist in Cape Town, Dr. J Fagan. He verified the test results and confirmed that Mark has throat cancer. He recommended surgery to remove the tumor as early as possible - the following week.
Our first call was to the insurance company. We have been paying monthly premiums to Affinity Health for several years, and hoped that our Hospital Plan would be able to cover most of the costs. Their plans says that they cover up to R150 000, which would make a significant difference in Mark's treatment. We were shocked and devastated when they came back and said their maximum coverage in our situation would be R38 500, less than 20% of the projected costs.
We cancelled our appointment at the specialist and booked in at the Groote Schuur government hospital. The consultation date was scheduled for April 24, 2020.
Our country went into a full and strict lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We knew with Mark's health at risk that we had to minimise our possible exposure. We stayed in our home, not even risking going to a grocery store for supplies.
April 24 2020
The appointment day came, and it was only to review his case and plan the next steps. After more tests, poking, and prodding, they determined that the cancer had grown and that Mark needed to come into surgery at the next available date - April 29.
April 27 2020
Freedom Day in South Africa came with another devastating blow. Due to the economic impact on many businesses in SA due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Mark was being retrenched from his job. He was being dismissed from a job that he had given his all to for more than 10 years. Mark loved his job as a racing analyst, and the look on his face when he heard the news was absolutely heartbreaking. More tears and frustration to add to what has already become the most punishing time of our lives.
April 28 2020
Mark went into hospital to prepare for his surgery. I had to leave him at the door. COVID-19 restrictions means only the patient is allowed to enter the hospital. We stayed in touch via WhatsApp, sharing our fears and our feelings and doing our best to stay connected so Mark wouldn't be alone during this difficult day.
"What if I had done things differently? Maybe I should have been a better person or treated people differently. If I was kinder and made different choices, would I be here?"
It's incredible how the darkest days can lead to the darkest thoughts. We all know Mark and we know he is a good man. A great man. He was just the unlucky one this time.
April 29 2020
Date of surgery. Mark was in the theatre for almost 5 hours as the team of doctors worked to removed the tumor from his neck. We all waited in our homes for word. It was a huge sigh of relief when the hospital contacted us to let us know that the surgery was complete and he was back in the ward resting.
April 30 2020
We finally heard from Mark! He said he was feeling good, just a bit of pain in his throat and would need to be in the hospital for another day or two for observation before being released.
May 4 2020
Mark is now back at home and continuing recovery from surgery. They kept him in the hospital longer than expected due to excess fluid in the area, but now that it is at a reasonable level he has been released back into our care. He has a follow up radiotherapy appointment scheduled on May 25. We will have to wait til then to find out if they were able to remove the entire tumor successfully.
Today, we believe we have made it past the most important step. The tumor has been removed. But we also know that this is still only the beginning of the journey.
We are awaiting the invoice for Mark's surgery and hospital stay and will update you as we know more. We have been told to expect up to R150 000. In addition, Mark will need follow up appointments to monitor his health, radiotherapy to ensure the cancerous cells are gone and will not return, medication, and living expenses.
Mark no longer has a job to go back to once his recovery is complete. The real estate industry has come to a complete stop due to the lockdown, and my work and income has taken a heavy hit. We are facing a difficult situation financially and have found ourselves in the humbling position where we have no choice but to ask for help.
Any donation no matter how small will be a help and will be greatly appreciated appreciated. If you are not in a position to make a donation at this time - and we know many of us are going through difficult times - we ask that you consider sharing this campaign to gain as much support as possible.
Thank you to everyone for reading, sharing, and donating. We can't tell you how much we appreciate your positive thoughts, kindness, and support.
Debbie & Mark
So you don’t think it can get worse!Update posted by Debbie McGillewie at 06:57 pm
Mark has soldered through the treatment and been so brave..... But... three weeks after his treatment ended things are tougher than ever! Just when you think Yay! He made it... Mark is losing more weight feeling more sick! This isn’t how it should be? He has his good days but
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