Mark on finding people who just 'get it'

Friday 10 March 2023

Maggie's West London

I’m a professional musician and I’ve been fortunate enough to play the drums alongside legendary artists.

My career has been a blessing because the life of a musician is very social. As someone with a lifelong stammer, I had always been shy and withdrawn.

I began properly noticing my symptoms in 2017. It felt like indigestion but got worse over time.

It got to the point where I was playing a show and had to leave the stage.


In 2018 I started feeling like I was being weighed down in the pelvis. I was sent for tests.

After MRI and CT scans, I was fast tracked into surgery.

The pain was caused by a bowel obstruction. Not only that, I had a tumour outside the bowel, near my bladder, the size of a grapefruit.

My surgeon told me that I needed to have a colostomy resulting in a stoma.

I was diagnosed 2 weeks after surgery with PT stage 4 carcinoma of the sigmoid colon.

Getting through treatment

I was told that I was lucky they hadn’t confirmed cancer before my surgery, because the usual procedure would’ve meant putting me on chemotherapy first. I wouldn’t have lived to see its completion.

I had chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy in the months following. As a freelance musician, taking the tube to hospital daily was the closest I ever felt to being a commuter.

I was brought back from the brink and I’m now four years into my recovery. Looking back on how close I came to dying feels surreal.

Sometimes I feel like an imposter when receiving platitudes on how ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’ I’ve been.

Nope… I just wanted to survive.

'Magic stoma’

It’s possible to reverse my stoma someday but it’s currently too risky. So, I’ve accepted that this is me for the foreseeable future.

I’ve met others with stomas - or ‘ostomates’ as we’re known - some of whom hate their bag. I consider myself fortunate that I accepted mine, though I really empathise with those that don’t.

I feel that my stoma has been more of a gift. I even call it ‘Magic Stoma’. It has been a bit like a rebirth.

I like to tell people that sitting down to poo is somewhat overrated.

The great leveller

As a result of my stammer, I’ve suffered from lifelong social anxiety.

While I’ve never been ostracised, I realise in hindsight that I made my own prison by being so self-conscious.

I still stammer. It can’t be cured; it can only be controlled.

But in the four years since my treatment, I’ve been able to control it a lot more.

After my surgery, I thought “I’ll be damned if I’m going to carry on like this”.

I’m no longer going to live my life acting as though I’m less than anybody else just because I have a stoma or a stammer.

Surprisingly, having a stoma has had a positive effect on my physical confidence too. I’m much more body confident than I’ve ever been.

I used to look at myself in the mirror and long for certain things to be different. But now I choose to focus on the things that feed me, not the things that eat me.

Living with a stoma is the great leveller; no one is better than anybody else. We all inhabit these vehicles which take us from A to B. Yet any one of us can break down and then need patching up.

For me, it would be terrible to have survived cancer and then spend the rest of my days feeling ‘less than’ in some way.

I have been given another lease of life… so why live it as a half-life?

Making friends at Maggie’s

Maggie’s was recommended to me by my medical team and I started going after my first chemotherapy cycle. That’s when I met Louise who is an absolute angel.

I wanted to connect with a community of people who have been through a similar thing to me, and that’s exactly what I found.

I’ve made friends here and I know there are friends I have yet to encounter.

Meeting people at Maggie’s has kept me buoyant; finding people who support each other however they can, has been vital.

Despite my stammer, the thing I enjoy the most is conversation. I relish in it at Maggie’s. I find it so cathartic to share my story and support others.

Every time I pop in, I wonder who I’m going to meet next. You meet people who, moments before, you don’t know from a can of paint.

But the next moment, before you know, just by walking through the door, you’ve made a friend.

You can plug in at Maggie’s if you ever need recharging, if you need a shoulder.

We’re here for you

Our cancer support specialists, psychologists and benefits advisors are here for everyone with cancer, and all the people who love them.

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at

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