Mark Farren has faced more than his fair share of struggles over the years but this struggle is literally a battle between life and death.
Mark, who is from Greencastle in Donegal, celebrated his 33rd birthday recently but despite his young age and obvious physical fitness he has been diagnosed with a brain tumour not once, not twice but three times.
Mark’s most recent operation took place on April 1 and with the physical scars of the surgery still visible, the Derry City F.C. legend is very much in the recovery period.
As a result of the severity of the operation Mark’s speech and mobility was badly impacted and he and wife Terri-Louise have been living in a bungalow with Terri-Louise’s parents in Killea, Co. Donegal. Mark’s parents, Michael and Kathleen and Terri-Louise’s parents Artie and Linda have been a great support to the couple.
“The tumour in Mark’s brain is beside the part of the brain used to form sentences,” explained Terri-Louise.
“Although Mark can make out what everyone is saying and he can think clearly, he has trouble forming sentences. In the whole time we were in the City Hospital after the operation we had very few speech therapy sessions and we are currently on a nine week waiting list before we can see one again,” she added.
On Christmas Eve 2008, Mark was diagnosed with a grade two brain tumour and was forced to take early retirement from professional football.
Mark underwent successful brain surgery in Liverpool in 2009 and along with the help and support of Terri Louise, his friends and family, he made a full recovery. In 2012, Mark accomplished what many had thought impossible, when, in the unmistakable red and white of his beloved Derry City, he broke Liam Coyle’s goal scoring record of 112 goals when he completed a hat-trick against Mervue United in the FAI Cup at the Brandywell.
What both Mark and Terri-Louise had to endure in 2008 and 2009 was unimaginable but after Mark’s recovery the couple started preparing for the rest of their life and in December 2009 they got married.
Due to the severity of what Mark had endured he faced a twice yearly brain scans. It was during one of these check-ups that Mark’s worst nightmares became a reality. In August 2013 he received the news that the brain tumour had returned.
However, like before, Mark and Terri-Louise slowly but surely started down the road to recovery but in February of this year Mark woke up one morning and knew something wasn’t right.
“Mark said he thought his speech much slower and complained of numbness down his right arm,” said Terri-Louise.
“We went to see his GP, Dr. Joe McAvoy straight away and after speaking to the consultant in Belfast they told us to keep an eye on it as the side effects of the treatment he was receiving at the time was impaired speech.
“We left it a few weeks but it continued to get worse and we went straight to Belfast. After a few scans and tests it was obvious something wasn’t right so we took the decision to operate.”
I can’t believe it - it’s given me the motivation to keep on fightingMark Farren
Mark and Terri-Louise went to Belfast on a Monday and his operation was then scheduled for the Friday.
“Mark had been prepped and was ready for the operation when the surgeon came in and said he couldn’t do the operation that day because he only had one Anaesthetist when in actual fact he needed two, so we had to pack up and come home again.”
Mark eventually had his operation the following Wednesday but the surgeon revealed that despite the intrusive nature of the surgery they only managed to remove between 80 and 90 per cent of the Grade Four tumour.
Mark was released from hospital two weeks ago and the only option open to him through the NHS is severe chemotherapy. There is no guarantee that the treatment will work and the side effects, which include infertility, are quite severe.
Throughout his recovery Mark has also been receiving treatment through a homeopathy clinic in Belfast run by Dr. Finbar Magee.
“It doesn’t come cheap,” said Terri Louise, “but some of the results Dr. Magee has been able to get have been amazing. This is literally a fight between life and death and we want to try everything.”
The treatment at Dr. Magee’s Belfast clinic has already cost Mark and Terri Louise thousands of pounds but the next step is for Mark to travel to either Germany or Mexico where he will undergo much more intense treatment.
“The hospitals in Germany and Mexico are connected to one another but the price of the treatment is very high. We think Mark is going to need at least six weeks worth of treatment and it costs £5,500 per week - and that only covers Mark by himself.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to this kind of illness everything is about the money so that’s why we took the decision to go public last week - we need help.”
Terri-Louise is a full-time wedding photographer and although the couple had been saving they do not have enough money to pay for Mark’s treatment.
“We want to raise as much money as we possibly can so that we can give this treatment a go and hopefully by the end of it all we will have a positive story to tell,” said Terri-Louise.
On learning of their former team-mate’s plight, footballers Ruaidhri Higgins, Ciaran Martyn, Kevin McHugh and Shaun Holmes (Terri Louise’s brother) have taken it upon themselves to organise a Mark Farren fundraising page online. At the time of going to print £13,000 had been raised but with countless fundraising events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks it is highly likely that that figure will rise considerably.
“I am very, very emotional and happy at the same time,” said Mark. “I can’t believe it - it’s given me the motivation to keep on fighting.”
Terri-Louise said nothing could prepare for the response the family’s appeal received when it was publicised last Friday.
“Honestly, our phones have not stopped and we have people from all over the world looking to help out. Mark’s former Derry City team-mate, Clive Delaney is in Australia and he is doing something. Darron Gibson contacted us to say Wayne Rooney is looking to do something and Ciaran Martyn, Ruaidhri Higgins, Kevin McHugh and my brother Shaun Holmes are organising a big fundraising night next month in the Everglades. Mark and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support, kindness and generosity. Hopefully this story will have a happy ending,” smiled Terri Louise.
To donate to the Mark Farren Treatment Fund visit http://gogetfunding.com/project/mark-farrens-treat