The diagnosis of cancer on the body of a personal trainer who had a “gym injury” was confirmed after he was given 18 months to live.
Mark Potter, 47, of Chingford, Essex, first noticed numbness in his calves in January. He was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy.
However, the former champion boxer — who was squatting 200kg (440lbs) at the time — chalked it up to a pinched nerve caused by overtraining and brushed it aside.
Fortunately, when the numbness began to creep up his leg, the father-of-two went to his doctor, who eventually diagnosed him with stage four stomach cancer.
Doctors informed him that the cancer had migrated to his spine and that tumors were compressing his nerves, causing him to experience numbness in his lower legs.
The boxing referee is currently undergoing chemotherapy once every two weeks in order to extend his life.
His family is optimistic that the treatment will be effective. Wife and colleague physical therapist Hannah expressed her optimism, saying, ‘We still believe he can fight this.’
Mark Potter, 47, from Essex, started feeling a numbness in his calves at the start of the year but put it down to training too hard. Tests later revealed it was caused by stomach cancer, triggering tumours that had spread to his spine and were compressing nerves
Mr Potter’s wife Hannah (left) and the rest of the family remain hopeful he will make a full recovery. Friends described him as the ‘fittest and healthiest’ man they know. Pictured right, Mr Potter at a boxing match. He won 21 out of 26 he competed in, Mr Potter says
Stomach cancer is not common in the UK, with about 6,500 people diagnosed with the condition every year. In the US, about 26,000 cases are detected annually.
About one in every two people who are diagnosed with stomach cancer survive for at least a year, according to Cancer Research UK.
But when the cancer reaches stage four, only about 20 per cent will survive past 12 months.
What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer is not very common in the UK, with about 6,500 cases diagnosed every year.
The NHS says many symptoms associated with the condition could also be triggered by other illnesses.
Key symptoms include:
- Heartburn or acid reflux;
- Having problems swallowing;
- Feeling or being sick;
- Symptoms of indigestion, like burping a lot;
- Feeling full very quickly when eating.
Other symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to;
- A lump at the top of your tummy;
- Pain at the top of your tummy;
- Feeling tired or having no energy.
Source: NHS England
Speaking of her husband’s diagnosis, Mrs Potter, 45, said: ‘When they told us the diagnosis, I had a complete meltdown.
‘He has tumours in his stomach that spread to his spine, which has caused the numbness.
‘When they told us, you obviously hope for the best so I thought it might have been stage two.
‘After being told it was stage four, the doctor said he maybe have 18 months to live, with treatment, but we’re staying positive, and we still think he can beat this.’
Friends and family described Mr Potter as having a ‘heart of gold’, and being one of the ‘fittest and healthiest’ people they knew.
At the time of his diagnosis, he could run six kilometres in 30 minutes and squat and deadlift 200kg.
During his career as a boxer, Mr Potter also won 21 of 26 professional fights he competed in. He also took part in MMA fighting and kick-boxing.
Describing when he first noticed something was not right, his wife said: ‘When he said his calf was feeling really weird, I thought it must be a pinched nerve or something.
‘He was regularly doing squats and deadlifts, so we just assumed it was down to that.’
The family has also changed his diet, which they said may help with his treatment.
Mr Potter has now phased out sugar and almost all meat, and is instead eating mostly plant-based foods.
Friend Mr Finlay said: ‘As far as the NHS are concerned, the treatment Mark is going to receive will only prolong the inevitable.
‘I was absolutely furious at the matter-of-fact way such devastating news was delivered, without even suggesting that there were additional therapies that can be explored.
‘Stage four cancer does not have to mean a death sentence… many people have survived after being diagnosed with cancer exactly like this.’
Mr Potter’s two children are Sam, 27, and Rosie, 20.
Pictured above is Mr Potter doing squats at his gym. Before the diagnosis he could lift as much as 200kgs for six repetitions
Warning signs for stomach cancer include regular indigestion, loss of appetite and pain in the tummy area.
But the NHS says these symptoms are ‘very common’, and could actually indicate other conditions except for stomach cancer.
In very rare cases the first symptom of stomach cancer may also be triggered after it has spread to the spine.
Smoking, being overweight, and eating too much salt and red or processed meat all raise someone’s risk of suffering stomach cancer.