It’s been three months since Mark Pilgrim shared that he has stage 4 lung cancer and now the presenter and DJ says his treatment is yielding positive results.
Speaking to us from his Joburg home a day after his fourth round of chemotherapy, Mark (52) says scan results show that the tumours in his lungs are shrinking.
“You hope for two things: one, a shrinkage, or number two, that there is no more growth of the existing [tumours] and there aren’t any new ones. So I’m blessed in that there aren’t any new ones and the existing tumours have all responded to the treatment,” Mark says.
“It’s remarkable what’s happened in three months because I’m using a multitude of therapies, with all the various doctors aware of each other and all these therapies compliment each other. Of all the treatments I do, which is most effective? We don’t know, but the end result is what you want.”
Mark has been undergoing chemotherapy, immunotherapy, integrative therapy which combines various treatments through new generation medicines; ozone therapy, where ozone gas is administered into his body; and photodynamic therapy which uses light energy and medication to attract and destroy cancer cells.
Mark says that his oncologist considers the results “exceptional”.
“If you think back to the initial prognosis, it was that if nothing works, I only have a couple of months. You’re going up against terminal disease, so I’m defying the odds,” say the Hot 102.7 mid-morning show host.
“Not only have the tumours shrunk, but within the tumour, there’s what they call necrosis, the tumour has died inside as well. I’m feeling way better. I’ve still got a cough, but energy wise I’m feeling better and I think I’m looking healthier.”
Mark has had to make considerable changes to his diet, completely cutting out gluten, sugar, dairy, fruit, coffee, alcohol and any acidic food.
All his vegetables are organic and he sometimes adds a small portion of fish or chicken to his meals.
Mark has been so militant with his diet that he couldn’t even have a celebratory drink after getting the good news about his tumours shrinking.
“Not only am I attempting to starve cancer, but I’m also trying to give myself the best nutrition possible, so my immune system can get stronger. Every morning I start with a huge bowl of greens and put it into a juice.”
In addition, he takes 27 pills in the morning and 15 at night to supplement his treatment.
These include cardio medication, which he’s had to take since suffering a heart attack and losing 10% of his heart function 14 years ago.
It’s not his first run in with “the big C”.
Thirty-three years ago, when he was 18, Mark was diagnosed with testicular cancer and lost one of his testicles.
The side effects of the chemotherapy he’s undergoing now are not as severe as they were when he was a teen, he says.
There’s no nausea this time, but he does tire easily and feels sapped of energy.
He doesn’t share his therapy on social media for sympathy, Mark says, but to educate people about their options.
“I like mentioning these things because we had to do our own research. Every doctor has got their way of doing things; there’s not one place that sits you down and tells you about everything.
“Whether people opt to use it or not, that’s their choice. I’m not saying my methodology is right. All I’m saying is that there are options out there and I’m doing everything I can.”
Sharing his journey on social media has also contributed to his healing, he says.
Mark’s received an overwhelming show of support and, although he can’t respond to everyone, he appreciates their messages.
“I think that collective power of thought alone made a difference. But the ones that stand out for me are those where people say they didn’t have the energy to get out of bed this morning, but then they read my post and they got up.
“Because being strong isn’t just being Chuck Norris all the time. Being strong is acknowledging vulnerability. So I have a cry, but after having a cry it’s about uncurling yourself from the foetal position and standing up.”
The disc jockey still has three more rounds of chemo left – which he calls healing juice – and will decide where to from there once more scans are done.
“My aim is to be cured, not to be in remission,” he says.
He still wants to walk his daughters, Tayla Jean (11) and Alyssa (9), down the aisle and he intends on travelling the world with his partner, Adrienne Watkins (42), he says.
For now, he will continue his various therapies and doctors’ appointments four times a week.
EXTRA SOURCES: WWW.CANCER.ORG, WWW.HEALTHLINE.COM