Mark loses long cancer battle

Mark Bannister with his son Thomas
Mark Bannister with his son Thomas

GAINSBOROUGH dad Mark Bannister has lost his nine year battle against a brain tumour, aged just 38.

His wife Karen has paid tribute to a ‘proud, brave man who doted on his family and never lost hope’.

Mark Bannister with his daughter Sophie

Mark Bannister with his daughter Sophie

Mark passed away in Lincoln County Hospital with Karen by his side on Monday 4th June.

The former soldier had become a well-known face around town, attracting thousands of supporters in his fight to get cancer treatment.

Karen, 33, told the Standard: “Mark was such a happy-go-lucky guy. He was in good spirits right until the end.”

Mark fought health bosses for six precious months to get cancer drug Avastin, which he had hoped would prolong his life.

Mark and Karen Bannister

Mark and Karen Bannister

In the end he had to lie about where he was living to get around the ‘postcode lottery’ which prevented his access to the drug.

But it was too late. Despite a course of Avastin, he was told in April that it had not shrunk the tumour.

“I just wish we had done it sooner,” said Karen, who is looking after Sophie, seven, and Thomas, five.

The tumour had begun to affect Mark’s balance and co-ordination, and he had fallen a few times recently.

Mark Bannister

Mark Bannister

“On Thursday he fell against the bedroom door and I couldn’t get to him,” said Karen.

“The paramedics were worried about his neck so he went to hospital.”

“After the scan he seemed fine and in really good spirits - laughing and joking with the nurses as usual.”

“The doctors said he could come home but he couldn’t be discharged because of the bank holiday.”

“Then he started getting bad head pains and they put him on stronger painkillers which made him drowsy.”

In the early hours of Monday Karen got a call saying Mark had taken a turn for the worse. She rushed to his bedside and he slipped away at around 6am.

“I don’t really understand what happened. He had been getting more and more tired but he was still his normal self,” she said.

“People have asked me if I think he had given up. Mark never gave up. He was trying all sorts of herbal therapies to try and shrink the tumour.”

“We knew he was poorly and we knew this was coming but it’s still such a shock. I don’t think it’s sunk in properly yet, especially for the kids.”

Mark and Karen had been married 18 months when he was diagnosed in 2003.

“The kids have not known anything different than him being in and out of hospital,” said Karen.

“Sophie took her first steps in Weston Park Cancer Hospital in Sheffield.”

But the family have made the most of their time together, taking trips to the seaside, camping and fishing.

“Mark’s greatest achievement is his children,” said Karen.

After he was diagnosed we thought we wouldn’t have kids.”

“He doted on them - and me. Even when he was poorly he would get up early and cook pancakes for breakfast.”

“He never moaned or felt hard done by. Even after his operations he went back to work - he was a proud man.”

In his 20s Mark served in Bosnia and Northern Ireland with the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters regiment.

Karen said: “He had lots of friends in the army, and quite a few have got in touch since hearing his story.”

“He was touched by the thousands of messages he got on Facebook. It got him through the tough times.”

Mark’s page was initially set up to fight for his treatment. But it soon became a tool to raise awareness of what he saw as the ‘postcode lottery’ around expensive cancer drugs.

Karen has vowed to continue the campaign in his memory.