by Nitin Sachania

In the glamorous setting of Monaco, I had the privilege of meeting a person three years ago. Who would have known that meeting this individual would turn into a wonderful friendship? Mark Mead Baillie, a resilient soul who faced the daunting challenge of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but faced it with positivity, in his later years of life.

Our friendship began casually, as many do, saying hello as we would pass by on the street, which in turn changed to ‘join me for a coffee’ and we soon discovered shared interests, finding ourselves immersed in discussions about our favourite music genres, vinyl records, musicians, the nuances of playing guitars and conversations, in a humorous way about life itself. Meetings would never be planned, if I am walking by the local café near my apartment, Mark would be sitting there and I would join him, sitting there for 5 minutes, maybe 15, maybe longer.

Life, however, has a way of throwing unexpected curveballs and for Mark this curveball came in the form of a routine yearly physical examination. What was supposed to be a customary check-up turned into a discovery that would alter the course of his life! The doctors discovered a minimal white blood cell count which was evidence of his system fighting something serious. A further pet scan confirmed cancerous cells in many parts of the body and was diagnosed at Stage 3.

The news of a cancer diagnosis is undoubtedly a heavy burden to bear for anyone, but Mark faced it with admirable courage. The initial shock and sorrow were evident as he had lost some of his ‘Spark’, yet there was an underlying determination to confront the challenge head-on. The journey that lay ahead was scary, but he was not going to let this get to him and he approached it with an unwavering spirit. This, together with a doctor who was experienced with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was certain that Mark would be able to fight this. 

This is what struck me most during this challenging time, Mark’s unyielding positivity. Instead of taking a nose dive into despair, he embraced optimism with his outlook on life, remaining bright and remaining positive. His contagious spirit and enthusiasm became a source of inspiration for those around him. He would always talk to people with a smile and never once felt sorry for himself and despite the hardships, our conversations at the café continued, albeit now with the inclusion of his battle against cancer.

As time passed in the unfolding chapters of everyday life, through the highs and lows of treatments, the uncertainties and the physical toll with the chemotherapy/radiotherapy, he persevered and eventually, he emerged victorious in his battle against lymph cancer.

Today, Mark is not merely a survivor; he is a testament to the human spirit and to the resilience the body and mind can have when put through challenges. He lives life as it should be lived – with joy, gratitude and an appreciation for everyday life. The café is still our meeting ground, although we will occasionally meet at our apartments where conversations continue and with the added bonus that we will also listen to vinyl records.

Mark’s journey from a cancer diagnosis to a life filled with happiness and positivity is a story that resonates beyond the glitz of Monaco, reminding us all that even in the face of life’s greatest challenges, the human spirit can emerge stronger, brighter, and more vibrant than ever before.  And the first thing Mark said to me after telling me he was cancer free…’We’re gettin’ the band back together, Baby!’