An amateur cricketer has been told he is dying from skin cancer after he forgot to slap on sun cream during a game in New Zealand. His story is a salutary reminder of the dangers presented by high UV levels in New Zealand and ozone depletion, which leads to the country having the world’s highest rates of Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, higher even than Australia. 44 New Zealanders per 100,000 are diagnosed with melanomas each year (in Australia the rate is about 40 per 100,000)
Mark Jasper says he can pinpoint when he contracted the disease to the day he bowled in only a vest and got sunburned. The 41 year old says he was always very careful to apply cream but on this occasion, in 2001 in New Zealand, he forgot. “I remember coming off the pitch and my skin being blistered” he said “The game ended and I had sunburn for the first time in my life”
A couple of years later a cancerous mole was found during a medical, treatment led to remission for several years but the cancer returned and spread to vital organs. He has just been told he has, at most, a year to live. He is telling his story to publicise the dangers of sun exposure:
CRICKETER Mark Jasper is hoping his battle against terminal skin cancer will serve as a warning to others about the dangers of the sun.
Mark, 41, said he contracted the condition while playing cricket in New Zealand in 2001. Two years later he had a malignant mole removed and has been fighting cancer almost ever since.
He knows it is a losing battle — last September he was told he had between six and 12 months to live.
But he hopes his story will raise awareness about the threat of skin cancer.
Mark, who lives in Budleigh Salterton and plays cricket for Sidmouth, has scoured the world for treatment to prolong his life and extend the time he has left with wife Karen and two-year-old son Max.
“If I can hang on in there for another 12 months that is time together we probably wouldn’t have had, according to the doctors I saw last year,” he said.
“It is worse for Max and Karen than it is for me. When I die it is all over for me, but they have to carry on having lost a husband and father.”
Mark, originally from Australia, said: “I can clearly remember the game when I didn’t put the sun cream on properly, it was in 2001 when I was working in New Zealand.
“It was criminal really; every Australian knows the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of creaming up before you play, but I got careless.
“When I changed jobs I went for a medical and the doctor saw a mole he didn’t like the look of. He said I should have done something about it — I left it.
“That was my second mistake.
“I finally had it removed nearly 18 months later, and when it was tested it was found to be malignant.”
He had an operation to remove a big area of skin around where the mole had been on his shoulder and thought the problem was over.
What he didn’t know at the time was the cancer that had come into his body through a mole was sitting in his bloodstream.
For four years Mark had no problems. But after waking up with a sore arm he saw his doctor and a specialist.
As a precaution he had his lymph nodes cut out and was off work for eight weeks. After the surgery he was told there was 60-40 chance that it might come back. For the next year he was checked every three months and each time tests came back clear.
But just before Christmas in 2008 the cancer returned, although it wasn’t spotted until last summer.
“I woke up with a sore rib, went to see the doctor and was asked if I had any trauma recently which could have broken it,” he said.
“I hadn’t. In August last year I found a lump and that led to a scan which showed tumours on my liver and lungs. What was thought to be a fractured rib was actually bone cancer.”
Mark had five tumours on his liver and one on each lung. Specialists told him there was no chance of recovery, only of extending his life by months or maybe a year.
He said: “After seeing specialists in London and Manchester, I knew I had between six months and a year and there was nothing they could do for me, other than palliative care.”
He has taken part in experimental treatments and trials, including five months in San Antonio, Texas.
He said: “At first the tumours carried on growing — one reached the size of a cricket ball — then the rate of growth started slowing down.
“I had six treatments over five months before it became too expensive to continue and I came home.
“Karen was with me for three months, living in a rented apartment. We also had to buy a car to make the appointments at the hospital.
“The cricket family were very generous, helping with our expenses.
“Many members at Sidmouth offered donations, which we were grateful for, and opposition clubs like Plymouth sent in money they had collected. They have been amazing.
“The treatment in the United States has bought me time to look around and see what other trials are taking place.
“There are a couple of possibilities, one of which I could be accepted for.”