From Music Producer to Melanoma Patient
Neil Young. Bob Dylan. Red Hot Chili Peppers. U2.
Mark Howard has worked with these and countless other music heavyweights over the past 35 years as an internationally renowned record producer.
But for the last year and a half, the Hamilton native has not been focused on another hit record but on beating cancer instead.
In May 2017, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma after a small mole removed from his shoulder was found to be malignant.
Mark Howard, Neil Young & band
Mark Howard & Robert Plant
Joni Mitchell & Mark Howard
On tour in the United States, Mark originally sought treatment in Los Angeles. But when the cancer spread to his liver, spleen and lungs, he returned to Canada to be treated by The Princess Margaret's Dr. Marcus Butler, one of North America's leading melanoma specialists.
He was treated with a drug that shrank his tumours, but it stopped working after six months.
Worse yet, the cancer had spread to his brain.
Mark is now on an immunotherapy treatment, which is showing promise in shrinking his tumours.
Immunotherapy uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer. It has rapidly gained recognition for its potential to change the way we treat cancer and to join chemotherapy, radiation and surgery as a fourth pillar of cancer treatment. It's also a treatment that was tested in clinical trials.
“The liver is showing that it's cleaning up. They don't see it on the spleen anymore and it's getting smaller on the brain. It's going to take a while, but it's positive and I'm moving forward,” says Mark.
He points to Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, who experienced similar results with immunotherapy after melanoma had spread to his liver and brain in 2015.
“The immunotherapy is working. It's worked on a lot of other people and I'm lucky it's working on me because it doesn't work on everybody.”
Mark wants to raise awareness about the dangers of skin cancer.
“I didn't think much of it, ‘Oh, a little mole, a little cancer, just knock it off,' but it's one of the five most dangerous cancers in the world. I was stupidly not aware of how deadly the sun is. I travel a lot around the world and was exposed to the sun. I've never worn sunscreen.”
He also put together a benefit concert in Toronto in the fall of 2018 featuring a star-studded lineup of artists, including Randy Bachman, Sarah McLachlan, Sam Roberts, Ian Thornley and Sass Jordan, to raise funds for the life-saving immunotherapy program at The Princess Margaret.
“It feels incredible to have everybody come together and help me. I was really shy about being open about what I had and it just got to a point where I thought, ‘OK, I can make a difference. I can help other people.' I just don't want anybody to go through what I've gone through.”