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Fighting Cancer Sucks!


Fighting Cancer Sucks

By Mark Wollner

Fighting cancer sucks.

There I got that off my chest.

When you are in the fight, it is both mental and physical.


The mental part of it gets you through the physical part that is needed to get the body in shape to give this bugger hell.

If you let in the gloom—even a crack—the wall will fall and the physical battle can be lost.

From there, it is all downhill and I can tell you first hand it is a fast hard ride.

Last week I came back to The Cancer Treatment Centre of America (CTCA) for what we thought would be a small op to remove some fluid that built up from this past January’s surgery. Instead of fluid, they pulled out another cantaloupe size tumour. To date, that brings me up to 89 hours of surgery and close to 200 nights in a hospital bed. I have been fighting this fight since 2006 and it is not over yet.

In 4 weeks, I will be back for another more aggressive surgery that will probably take me to 100 hours on the table and over 200 days in a hospital bed. I am not sure what award they give you when you hit the 100 hour mark, but I know the smile on my wife’s face and the joy in my son’s voice will be reward enough for me.

The other day, a nurse at CTCA asked me how I do it. She has seen me here before and has witnessed my transformation from the walking dead to the living. She is always amazed how I can be in their gym working out, so positive doing some fancy moves one day then hooked up to a life monitor the next and back in the gym doing some fancy moves like nothing happened.

I am blessed that my body heals so fast. I have been able to bounce back faster than most, but I will admit, Kryptonite hit the ground and my armour is weak.

What drives me is a combination of the true love for my wife Katrin, the love of my son Jack, and the inspiration that was given to me by a man named Kimura.

I started training a style of Martial Arts in Hackensack NJ with my brother Gerry some 30 or so years ago.

Soke Shigeru Kimura had a school there that was nothing much to talk about. In fact, I walked passed it a few times the first night I started. I can remember that night so very well. This in itself is another story to be told. I will tell you that from that first night there was no turning back. Kimura Shukokai entered my life and I welcomed it in with an open soul. Ask me what gives me my mental drive and I will tell you every time, it was that first inspiring night when I started training Shukokai Karate .

Before every surgery or chemo round, I close my eyes thinking of a kata and I wake up to it. When the walls start closing in on me and the panic attacks start, I think of my training and how I would teach a certain move. When I can get out of bed, I start by just simply moving my right arm in a slow rhythm. After that is loosened up, I put my left leg in front and imagine my right arm extended then the right leg and left arm and forward we go.

If anyone ever had the honour of travelling with Mr Kimura, you would know this sort of shuffle. Mr Kimura would be standing at the gate waiting for the plane and his right arm would start to move. Then his left arm would join in. After a bit of time his left leg would inch forward and his right arm would stretch longer. Then, the right leg would join in the rhythm and then one two three switch, one two three switch and off he would go into another world. This is how I begin my recovery every time. Slow easy movements that add arms and legs in fluid movements that allow me to stretch my physical parts and motivate my mental soul.

Shukokai is not just about arm and leg movements, it is about body mechanics and how to get the body to stay in tuned with the mind and become fluid and effortless.

In 2011, after a total of 24 hours of aggressive, lifesaving surgery and 88 days total in a hospital bed, walking was not pleasant. In fact, I had my doubts if I would be able to. My physical therapist looked on as I started to move and create a rhythm that combined arms and legs, working in effortless harmony.

I slowly and painfully started to train. I started to use what I learned from Kimura Shukokai to teach me how to walk. It opened up my soul and released the spirit Mr Kimura instilled in me. I started to do punches. Then I started step over punches and blocks and in several weeks’ time, I started katas. I started to live again.

I was welcomed to train with the Shotokan club here in Tortola. A style closely related to Shukokai. Sensei Gerry took it upon himself to push me during class sessions. Mark Hooper the founder and chief instructor of The Tortola Judo Club, opened up his dojo to me. I started to train and I started to teach. Every opportunity, I was there nurturing my soul. Every year, there was another surgery to recover from and there will be more to come. Every year I will become more determined to beat this cancer before it beats me.

I train in the fashion taught to me by Mr Kimura and his most senior students, many of whom I am honoured to call my friends. Their motivation and endless drive to keep the spirit of Mr Kimura alive helps motivate me to mentally survive this on-going fight and also to keep the power of Shukokai close to me.

Thank You Sensei


Mark Wollner

Erin Paviour-Smith

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