Diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer – Mark’s story

Mark’s strong family network is supporting him through his immunotherapy treatment at The Royal Marsden.

Mark, a former footballer, lives with his partner Claire and has a five-year-old son, Harry. He was first diagnosed in 2018: “The primary cancer was in my right kidney, but by the time I was diagnosed, it had already travelled into seven other sites in my body.”

“It was quite a shock. I had played professional sport from ages 15 to 30 and had kept myself in very good shape throughout my 30s, so it was completely out of the blue. I had a sore back for a couple of months so thought I’d get it checked out, and then I started passing blood sporadically for six weeks. I half-expected something would need looking at, but I was not expecting the diagnosis.”

“I was referred to The Royal Marsden and went straight in for two weeks of radiotherapy. Since then, I’ve been in for multiple treatments and operations.”

A man carrying his son on a busy street in London, throwing their fists in the air in happiness
Mark and his son, Harry

Mark’s treatment at The Royal Marsden

“Professor Samra Turajlic is my oncologist, and I’ve seen various experts because my cancer was in different places such as my spine and hip. It was a collection of the most amazing professionals I could ever hope for, led by Professor Turajlic.”

“I had an intensive start to my treatment, including two quite major operations, as the cancer had travelled to so many places in my body. I had my hip joint completely removed, as the tumour in the hip was growing significantly, even faster than the primary tumour in my kidney. That was in May 2019, and then in March 2020 I had my kidney removed.”

“Everybody throughout the process from day one was so amazing, whatever level I saw them at – from the oncologists and surgeons to the staff behind the desk. I’ve been so lucky since my diagnosis, I feel so fortunate and grateful to have received the treatment and care that I’ve had.”

Two people standing together and smiling in a busy park
Mark Rooney and his partner Claire Beattie

“You tell me what I need to do, and I’ll do it”

“I’ve undergone big surgeries but because of my previous life as a professional sportsperson, I’ve had that mentality from day one of ‘tell me what I need to do, and I’ll do it’. I played football for Barnet, Watford, Wimbledon, Dagenham and Redbridge, so I had that sporting background that I think I used in my focused approach to treatment.”

Mark is currently having immunotherapy, which harnesses the immune system to attack cancer cells. He is coming into The Royal Marsden every six weeks for his treatment sessions. “I’ve also signed up to get involved in research and want to help in any way I can – I’ve always given extra blood if asked to for other research. I’m aware that I’m very fortunate, it’s very much my duty to help in any way I can.”

Support from the family

“My son Harry has only really known me undergoing treatment – all he knows is that daddy goes to hospital. My principle concern when I was diagnosed was that I had a very young son that may end up losing his dad way before he should. It was constantly on my mind and helped me jump into whatever was required. I had to give it my best shot, whatever sacrifices I needed to make.”

“He’s great, he just goes with it. He knows if we play football, I might feel a bit tired quicker than other dads. He’s very understanding considering his age.”

A woman in running gear smiling with her hands up
Claire at the Royal Parks Half Marathon

“The support of Harry, Claire and my former partner, as well as my mum, family and my mates, that’s made it much easier than maybe it could have been.”

Mark’s partner Claire recently ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon and the London Landmarks Half Marathon for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

“I was able to begin the physiotherapy process for my hip in August 2022 after being delayed by treatment I’ve needed, and it’s made a dramatic difference. I’ve been jumping on Claire’s fitness bandwagon! I’m physically getting slowly back to somewhere near normal. I won’t be running any marathons any time soon, but I’m improving every day.”

How you can help

If you’re inspired by Mark’s story and want to help people with cancer, make a donation.