Mark Allen cancer: Sliding doors moment saved the life of fit and healthy Aussie sports presenter
Popular sports presenter Mark Allen had taken six weeks of vacation 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.
His 3AW colleague Tony Tardio read the headlines and said that Australia was number two behind Switzerland in curing colon cancer.
The former golf pro and host of the station’s Twilight Zone show decided that, with his schedule wide open, he would book a colonoscopy to make sure he didn’t have the second-deadliest cancer in the country.
Just days later, in December 2018, Allen was on a stretcher when a doctor told him he had stage four colon cancer.
“It was a moment where I just froze,” the 53-year-old told the Daily Mail Australia.
“I came up and thought about my wife and children and what we were going to do, how they would do without me.”
Mark Allen pictured after surgery to remove a tumor in 2019, after being diagnosed with colon cancer
What are the five signs of colon cancer?
1. Blood drops when visiting the toilet
2. Frequent trips to the bathroom
3. Back or Abdominal Pain
5. Anemia or Sudden Weight Loss
The next 14 months would be an “all year” for the “dead end 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, jet-setting around the world 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 windpipe and arteries that several thoracic surgeons refused to operate because it was too dangerous.
Any minor flaw in the meticulous procedure could have bled Allen to death in minutes.
Finally, he found a doctor who was willing to pick up the scalpel in a desperate attempt to save his life before several more surgeries followed.
“They thought I was done,” Allen said. “They cut me open from head to toe and took 40 cm of colon and 80 percent of my rectum and 25 percent of my lung capacity.
‘When the ostomy bag became a part of my life later in the year, it really got difficult.
“When I slept with it, the thing fell 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) saw Allen endure the harrowing experience
The 3AW presenter said that while most Aussies think of colon cancer as an old man’s disease, it can affect anyone with 10 percent of the 15,000 under 50 diagnosed each year.
He is now a member Colon Cancer Australia as an ambassador to start a national campaign alerting people to the symptoms to watch out for.
“I think it’s a shame there isn’t a nationwide ad campaign informing people about what these symptoms are,” he said.
And what’s worse is that if you get stage one or stage two colon cancer, it’s the easiest of all cancers to cure.
“If you get stage three and four colon cancer and miss all the telltale signs, that’s the biggest killer.”
The former golf pro and host of the station’s Twilight Zone show (pictured) was diagnosed with colon cancer in December 2018
Mark Allen’s Year of Hell
Dec, 2018: Diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
January 2019: Colon cancer removed from the right lung in surgery.
March 2019: Radiation therapy and chemotherapy begin to eliminate the rectal tumor.
May 2019: Surgery to remove rectal tumor.
July 2019: Intravenous chemotherapy begins.
October, 2019: Colostomy bag surgically removed.
Nov 2019: Another tumor on the left lung is discovered and surgically removed.
January, 2020: A small tumor is removed from the ribs.
There are five key symptoms that can alert patients that they may have colon cancer.
These include small amounts of blood when going to the toilet, constipation or frequent bowel movements, as well as pain in the back or abdomen and in some cases unexplained anemia causing weight loss.
Allen got several of these telltale signs, but neither he nor his GP had any idea it was actually cancer.
“When I wiped my butt, I would see a little bit of blood once every two weeks or once a month, very randomly,” he explained.
“Six months before I was diagnosed, I went to the doctor and she said ‘we did a full exam, saw the blood test, you haven’t lost weight, so it’s not cancer – it could just be hemorrhoids.'”
Allen applied hemorrhoid cream and the tiny drops of blood stopped for about a month and then came back.
At the same time, he revealed that he would run to the bathroom three or four times every day before 11 a.m.
“I would empty before I left the house. I would go to a cafe, read the papers and drink coffee. I would deflate again. I would go to work and I would deflate again,” he said.
‘That 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 chatting about horse racing and then the call came up at my appointment for colonoscopy and I told him all the reasons I got it done,” he said.
“He said ‘don’t wait 12 weeks’ and in four days I was on a stretcher.”
One of Allen’s tumors in his right lung (pictured) was so close to his windpipe and arteries that several thoracic surgeons refused to operate because it was too dangerous
The sports radio host is now an ambassador for Colon Cancer Australia
Allen continued to talk on the radio about all things sports during his years-long battle with the disease, explaining that by doing what he loved, he took his mind off cancer.
The unwavering and unwavering support of his wife Tricia and children Olivia and Kelly also saw Allen reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
Surgeons successfully removed all 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 I play with a plus two handicap. So I enjoy life.
“When the ostomy bag came off in the early days, I couldn’t go anywhere without knowing where the toilets were, now I can go anywhere I want.”