By Adam MacDougall, News.com.au
HE was as tough as they came on the footy field, playing well above his weight. Now Mark Hughes is once again displaying those same attributes off the footy field to raise awareness and funds for brain cancer.
“My wife Kirralee and I started the Mark Hughes Foundation in 2014, after I was diagnosed with brain cancer and we discovered first-hand how under researched and underfunded brain cancer was in Australia in comparison to other cancers,” Hughes said.
“The fact is brain cancer is the biggest killer of children under 10 and adults under 40 years yet receives very little government funding so we needed to do something.”
And do something Mark has, with his foundation raising more than $10 million so far with campaigns including the Beanies for Brain Cancer, gruelling physical challenges like walking the Kokoda Track, and last year tackling the worlds largest mountain Mount Everest.
“Climbing Mount Everest with my great teammates like Danny Buderus, Paul Harragon and Matty Johns was a real highlight. It was a huge challenge but we all made it plus we were able to raise $500,000 for brain cancer research as well which was just incredible,” he said.
So now 12 months later, Mark and his former teammates, including Paul “The Chief” Harragon, are about to once again challenge themselves by following in the footsteps of Australian WWII prisoners of war on the Sandakan death march in Borneo.
The trek will take 12 days and see the group take on a number of different elements including steep mountains and rapid rivers.
“This will be an epic adventure not many have completed before, from one side of Borneo to the other,” Harragon said.
“It’s sure to have its challenges but we are all very determined to get there and raise as much money as we can for MHF along the way.
“My favourite part will be walking where the soldiers before us have walked on the Sandakan Death March and retracing their steps. There could be times we will be up against it, yes it’s going to be tough but nothing is going to stop us.”
So how does Mark get his body in shape to tackle such big physical challenges?
“The only way you can prepare yourself for a challenge like this is by putting in the hard work. I’ve spent hours walking up and down this big hill along with some gym work and yoga. I actually reckon I am as fit now as I was when I played footy,” he said.
“But what has made getting fit much easier is the fact I have buddied up with a group of my good mates. We call it the ‘wolf pack’ — about six of us catch up a few mornings each week and do some training together then we grab a coffee and have a laugh.
“So my advice to anyone wanting to get fit is find a mate or group of mates to do it with. You won’t want to let them down so on those days when you don’t want to train and would rather just sit on the lounge you will turn up and do it because of your mates.”
After a long footy career one would expect Marks body to have a few aches and pains. However he has ensured this isn’t the case by using a secret bone broth recipe to keep his body moving freely.
“To be honest my body feels really good and I think that my diet has played a huge role with this. I try to eat as much fresh greens and produce as I can and I try to avoid eating too much sugar. But my secret weapon is my bone broth recipe that I whip up ever few weeks.
“I just get a heap of beef and chicken bones and throw them in to the slow cooker with some stock and batch cook plenty of it to keep me going. And the best bit is that it doesn’t cost too much and its easy.”
“I believe that your attitude determines how happy and healthy you are. I don’t put things off anymore. If you want to do something, or achieve something do it now, don’t wait … get out the good china today,” Mark said.
“I am inspired every day to work harder than ever to find answers to this disease. I’ve accepted that it’s a journey and a path I’ve been given now, and with that an opportunity to turn something negative into something truly positive.
“The Mark Hughes Foundation is a way I can truly repay those who’ve helped me and help others in my position. I’ve got a beautiful wife, Kirralee and three beautiful kids, Zac, 13, Dane, 10, and Bonnie, 6, and they’re my motivation to make sure I tackle this cancer with everything I’ve got.
“I’m still in the fight of my life — I may have won the battle but I’m still fighting the war.”
If you would like to support Mark in finding a cure for brain cancer go to markhughesfoundation.com.au
Favourite healthy food: Sweet potato, I love them baked.
Favourite treat meal: Hot chips with sauce.
Go-to drink: Nothing beats a good cold beer.
Fitness tip: Find some mates and set a goal together.
Life advice: Be grateful for what you have and make today count.
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