Although the majority of mainstream America may not recognize the name Mark Chavarria, there is a relatively good chance they have seen his Hollywood badassery in action at some point over the past 20 years. He is what the movie industry refers to as a stuntman—a nice title that directors use to describe the men and women they intend to set on fire and throw off tall buildings in order to create the illusion of characters being indestructible forces of nature.
To experienced fall guys like Chavarria, who has done work in hundreds of big budget films, including “Inception” and “Iron Man,” as well as popular television series like “Sons of Anarchy,” there are very few career struggles that can’t be offset with a little hard work, determination and the occasional crash mat. That is unless you happened to be faced with, quite possibly, the last stunt of your life—trying to survive cancer.
For years, Mark experienced health issues that should have been a red flag for him to see a physician. He felt overly tired in the evenings and even began noticing some blood in his stool, but he was convinced that being young and keeping up with a regular exercise regimen was enough to ensure that nothing was seriously wrong. It was not until one of his “stunt buddies,” who had been experiencing similar symptoms, was diagnosed with colon cancer that Mark and his wife, Alyssa, began to suspect trouble.
But siding with stubbornness, Mark simply chalked his fatigue and other symptoms up to poor eating habits. Instead of going to the doctor, he made some relatively simple changes to his diet. He stopped drinking coffee, he laid off the red meat and even started eating bran cereal in the mornings. That ought to do it, he thought. “Ok, I’m cool. I don’t have cancer.”
It was not until his wife, who knew something was wrong, threatened him with divorce that he finally began taking the situation with his health more seriously. He saw his family doctor in September 2013, which led to a colonoscopy procedure in October. Unfortunately, the results of the test confirmed the couple’s biggest fear: Mark was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer.
“That was the start of it all,” Chavarria said. “Literally, when I woke up from the procedure, my wife was in there crying. She’s like, ‘you’ve got cancer,’ and I was like ‘no, I don’t.'”
Mark’s denial over the severity of the situation continued while in the hospital, eventually coming to recognize the horrible reality.
“I will beat this,” he told his wife. “You watch me.”
The tumors that had taken over Mark’s body were enormous, he explained, consuming nearly 70 percent of his colon, as well as infiltrating his liver. The situation was dire.
Almost instinctively, Mark went into survival mode. He began consulting with several doctors, all of whom offered a number of different opinions on his best chances for beating the beast known as cancer. Read the rest of the story on High Times here.