In the 1990s, Mark Wilcox’s life was good. 

He hadn’t faced what he would consider to be difficult times… yet. He was a graduate of medical school working in the ER and was a known powerlifting champion. 

But in 2010, when his now adopted daughter, Charlotte, was just six-months old, Mark was diagnosed with aggressive colon cancer. 

“It was in the center of my colon which meant that over 90% of my entire colon had to be removed,” Mark said. “Three weeks in the hospital with complications until I got home. While recovering at home within a month I developed extreme numbness and weakness of my entire right upper extremity. An MRI showed I had severe spinal stenosis at multiple levels requiring urgent neurosurgery to relieve the compression of the nerves. I was told I would be lucky to get 10-20% back of the over 80% strength and function that I lost. It would be as if my right arm had never worked out before.”

Because of the accessory nerve pathways from weight training, Mark was able to regain about 85% of his strength over the ensuing six years. Mark has also had Crohns disease for nearly 40 years. In fact, he was the 13th person ever diagnosed. Further complications led to Mark developing Chrons vasculitis which caused blood clots, admissions in the ICU, an IVC filter to protect clots from entering his chest and lifelong/daily blood thinner injections… not to mention encephalopathy and kidney failure. 

“Because of this I spent three weeks in rehab relearning how to walk,” he said. “The arthritis from Crohns has also progressed and requiring 8 knee surgeries for meniscus tears with clean out. I also had required several abdominal surgeries over the next 2 years from obstructions and acute exacerbations from Crohns and its complications, leaving me with a large inoperable abdominal hernia.”

Mark’s trials and tribulations didn’t stop there. 

“In 2015, I started having life threatening seizures and small brain bleeds,” he added. “I was found to have a vascular brain tumor requiring an extensive operation to remove it. The neurosurgeon felt this was causing the seizures. Ten days post op I suffered an extremely rare stroke with a seizure. It was rare because I had a brain hemorrhage and extensive blood clots in the vessels. Unfortunately, this happened in front of my daughter at a restaurant. I survived and she was amazingly brave during the entire episode.”

Unfortunately, the accessory pathways he had developed going to his right upper extremity over the past 5 years were wiped out from the stroke, leaving Mark with severe atrophy and weakness of his right arm and complete loss of his bicep. 

But Mark wasn’t going to let these road blocks define him. 

“With the support of my teammates at Mass Iron, my family and friends, I have decided to compete in a full power meet for RPS Powerlifting October 13th in Natick, MA,” he said. “I can’t even begin to tell you what this means to me. I had 19 surgeries in 9 years. I was forced into many storms, had to overcome life events, look adversity and death square in the face several times and stand my ground. Never swept or blown away, but I did get knocked down many times. It’s not what you go through, but how you go through it and the wisdom and knowledge gained about yourself, but what you can show and share with others to hopefully get them through their storms.”

Mark has never sought out sympathy. Far from it. 

Rather, he seeks inspiration and motivation as a way to give back to his daughter and others. 

“Charlotte has shown me how to be brave,” he said. “It’s a lot for anyone let alone a nine-year-old girl to be a huge part of. I’d be lying telling you I didn’t get emotional telling this story. Thank you for allowing me to share. By the grace of God, my faith, family and friends and a never-give-up attitude, I was and will forever be STRONG IN THE STORM.”