My name is Mark Kelly and I am a 20-year cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in December of 1990, three months shy of my 17th birthday. At the time, I was a wonderful two-sport athlete, excelling in basketball and baseball. The doctors originally gave me six months to live and I was put on a very aggressive, experimental, protocol of mega-doses of chemotherapy and four weeks of radiation. Although I survived a bone-marrow transplant in July of 1991, I was left with permanent side-effects from the treatment.
|Dick Vitale and I at the 1992 Final Four where I was sent as a Make-A-Wish Child. I was 18 at the time. |
Here are some of the issues I faced during transplant.
- My bladder wall ripped as a result of the radiation and I needed 11 bladder operations over a four-month span to keep my bladder
- I developed a collapsed lung and pneumonia with very little ability to fight the infection since my blood counts were non-existent
- I couldn’t swallow for three weeks due to the excessive sores in my mouth, throat and stomach
- I had two to three transfusions of blood and platelets a day because my counts were so low and I was hemorrhaging blood
- I went four weeks with zero blood counts and no ability to fight infection
- My broviac became infected and they did surgery while I was awake to remove it. I watched as they cut open my chest and removed it.
These were just some of the issues I faced during and right after transplant. Without the hand of God on my life, I would very likely have perished. After months of recovery and learning to walk again because my muscles were so atrophied being on bed rest for so long, Make-A-Wish sent me to the Final Four where I had asked to meet Dick Vitale, whom my friends and I enjoyed listening to growing up and watching college basketball. Ever since meeting him, Dick has been a constant in my life, always being there for me and providing me with endless love and support. I am very blessed for his presence in my life. Through Dick, Make-A-Wish and the V Foundation, I have met many others who share a passion to rid the world of this disease and the harmful side effects of one the world’s most potent drugs, chemotherapy.
|My Dog Sammy and I last Halloween. |
I am now 37 and live on Long Island. I suffer from Crohn’s disease, Lymphodema and Hemochromotosis as a result of the treatment. In 2008, I was forced to go on disability since I no longer could consistently attend work. I had spent the previous 10 years as a researcher for ESPN, a job and a company that I loved dearly and who treated me very well. As you can imagine, being on disability in today’s economy is a rough, however the good Lord has blessed me by giving me the perseverance to survive and the desire to reach and help others with my experiences. I am not alone as there are many survivors whose lives have been altered by the unforgiving side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. I hope to provide a voice for those as well, as many are left unable to support themselves and although they have survived cancer, face a difficult future.
My story is powerful and one that I believe can touch others and give hope to many who need hope because they are suffering with similar experiences. My journey is not over and I believe I have a responsibility to encourage others and speak of the power of prayer, love and perseverance. Hope is a powerful emotion and just a little can turn a life around. I look forward to sharing my story with you.
Mark Everett Kelly
P.S. My favorite athlete of all time is Mike Bossy. It would be an honor to meet him someday.