Popular sports presenter Mark Allen had booked a six week holiday and was driving through the streets of melbourne one summer afternoon when he reached for the radio.
It was a sliding door moment that saved his life.
Her 3AW colleague Tony Tardio read the headlines and mentioned that Australia was number two behind Switzerland in curing bowel cancer.
The former golf pro and host of the station’s Twilight Zone show decided that with his open schedule he would book a colonoscopy to make sure he didn’t have the second deadliest cancer in the world. country.
A few days later, in December 2018, Allen was sitting on a stretcher when a doctor told him he had stage four bowel cancer.
“It was a moment where I just froze,” the 53-year-old told Daily Mail Australia.
“I was waking up and thinking about my wife and kids and what we were going to do, how they would get by without me.”
Mark Allen is pictured after surgery to remove a tumor in 2019, after being diagnosed with bowel cancer
What are the five signs of bowel cancer?
1. Drops of blood when going to the bathroom
2. Frequent trips to the bathroom
3. Back or abdominal pain
5. Anemia or sudden weight loss
The next 14 months would turn into a “year from hell” for the “walking dead man” with five surgeries to remove tumors from his rectum, lungs and ribs and several bouts of chemotherapy.
The fit and healthy father-of-two who once enjoyed a high-flying lifestyle, the jet-setter across the globe was nearly bedridden in the final stages of 2019 and forced to use a colostomy bag .
One of Allen’s tumors in his right lung was so close to his trachea and arteries that several thoracic surgeons refused to operate because it was too dangerous.
Any slight error in the careful procedure could have seen Allen bleeding out within minutes.
Eventually he found a doctor ready to pick up the scalpel in a desperate attempt to save his life before more surgeries followed.
“They thought I was done,” Allen said. “They cut me from head to toe and removed 40cm of my colon, 80% of my rectum and 25% of my lung capacity.
“Once the colostomy bag became part of my life later in the year, that’s when things got really tough.
“When I slept with it, the thing would fall off and you had to get up and change the sheets.
“It got to the point where I felt like I was dragging my family down because my wife wasn’t sleeping and my kids were worried about me.”
The relentless and unwavering support of his wife Tricia and children Olivia and Kelly (pictured) got Allen through this heartbreaking experience.
The 3AW presenter said although most Australians see bowel cancer as an old man’s disease, it can strike anyone with 10 per cent of the 15,000 diagnosed each year aged under 50.
He has now joined Bowel cancer Australia as an ambassador to launch a national campaign warning people of symptoms to watch out for.
“I think it’s a shame that there isn’t a national ad campaign telling people what these symptoms are,” he said.
“And the worst thing is if you get bowel cancer at stage one or two, of all cancers, it’s the easiest to cure.
“If you get stage three and four bowel cancer and miss all the telltale signs, that’s the biggest killer.”
The former golf professional and host of the station’s Twilight Zone show (pictured) was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2018
Mark Allen’s Infernal Year
December 2018: Diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.
January 2019: Bowel cancer removed from the right lung in surgery.
March 2019: Radiation therapy and chemotherapy begin to get rid of the tumor in the rectum.
May 2019: Surgery to remove the tumor from the rectum.
July 2019: Intravenous chemotherapy begins.
October 2019: Colostomy bag removed by surgery.
November 2019: Another left lung tumor is discovered and surgically removed.
January 2020: A small tumor is removed from the ribs.
There are five main symptoms that can alert sufferers that they may have bowel cancer.
These include small amounts of blood when going to the bathroom, constipation or frequent bowel movements as well as back or abdominal pain and in some cases unexplained anemia leading to weight loss.
Allen experienced several of these telltale signs, but he and his GP were unaware that it was in fact cancer.
“When I was wiping my butt I would see a bit of blood every fortnight or once a month, it was very random,” he explained.
“Six months before my diagnosis, I went to the doctor and she said ‘we did a full exam, saw the blood test, you haven’t lost any weight, so it’s not cancer – it could just be hemorrhoids.”
Allen applied hemorrhoid cream and the little drops of blood would stop for about a month and then come back.
At the same time, he revealed that he runs to the bathroom three or four times before 11 a.m. every day.
“I would empty my mind before leaving the house. I would go to a café, read the papers and have a coffee. I would dump again. I would get to work and dump again,” he said.
‘It was my routine. I thought it was the coffee.
When Allen first booked his colonoscopy, he was put on a 12-week waiting list. But a chance meeting on the golf course with a doctor hastened the health check.
“We were talking about horse racing and then the conversation turned to my colonoscopy appointment and I told him all the reasons I was doing it,” he said.
“He said ‘don’t wait 12 weeks’ and in four days I was lying on a stretcher.”
One of Allen’s tumors in his right lung (pictured) was so close to his trachea and arteries that several thoracic surgeons refused to operate because it was too dangerous
The sports radio presenter is now an ambassador for Bowel Cancer Australia
Allen continued to talk all things sports on the radio during his year-long battle with the disease, explaining that doing what he loves keeps him from thinking about cancer.
The unwavering, unwavering support of his wife Tricia and his children Olivia and Kelly also allowed Allen to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
Surgeons managed to remove all the tumors from his body and he is now cancer free
“I’m better now than I ever thought I would be,” Allen said.
“My golf is even better than before and playing with a plus two handicap. So I enjoy life.
“When the colostomy bag came off at first I couldn’t go anywhere without knowing where the toilet was, now I can go anywhere I want.”
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