Brandon buoyed by sporting community in cancer battle
HE'S led the charge into plenty of battles in sport but respected rugby league coach Mark Brandon faces his greatest challenge yet off the field.
The former Beerwah Bulldogs and Maroochdyore Swans coach is currently waging a war against stage three melanoma, an aggressive and advanced form of skin cancer.
He's been quietly fighting the cancer on and off for the past four years following a misdiagnosis by a skin care specialist, however he has been forced to ramp up his efforts in the past 12 months.
After being clear for more than two years, a spot returned on Mr Brandon's hip with it spreading to his lymph glands, which he later had removed.
"I was then put on some immunotherapy drugs and for about four or five months it was really working," Mr Brandon said.
"I got a real good result at Christmas just gone and I was feeling really good."
However, he recently found a lump under his right arm with a PET scan confirming the worst, the cancer was back.
Mr Brandon's story doesn't end there, with the determined rugby league stalwart entering a new immunotherapy clinical trial in April.
"This trial starts in two weeks and it's about a seven month program but then it could even take up to two years," he said.
"It's very daunting and to be honest very scary but we've just got to plug on and steer our way through it and kick this imposter into the ball park."
Mr Brandon has had to step away from his treasured coaching role and the local game of rugby league this year to focus on his treatment.
Although devastated, he was buoyed by the sporting community which has rallied to his side.
As a mark of respect, and support, Mr Brandon was pulled out onto the field and presented with a signed football during the first division one clash of the season between his former clubs Beerwah and Maroochydore last week.
The team captains then hoisted Mr Brandon onto their shoulders in front of crowds.
"It really caught me by surprise and it just blew me away, I was absolutely overwhelmed," he said.
"It's not often I'm speechless but I was struggling for words."
With wife Judy by his side, he said the support had been a boost to morale.
"I've kept it pretty low key, my condition, and I wasn't going to put it out there but a lot of people found out," he said.
"You don't realise until you get a condition like this that the support around you really helps you and it really lifts your (spirits)."
While he was engaged in his own personal battle, for others the message was clear.
"If anything crops up don't even hesitate, just go and get it checked," he said.
"Don't think it'll go away, go and jump on things early.
"Early detection is everything with melanoma and cancer is not selective, it'll take anyone if it can.
"You've just got to be vigilant."