A young doctor who raised thousands of pounds for charity has died from a cancer that runs in his family.
Dr Mark Sims, 28, died on Thursday from malignant melanoma caused by a genetic fault, which has also affected his brother, father, aunt and grandmother.
He was 15 when he was first diagnosed with skin cancer and was able to beat the disease. But in 2015, the disease returned and spread around his body, including to his lung, liver, spleen and gall bladder.
Dr Sims died in the Royal Marsden Hospital after receiving the news earlier in January that nothing more could be done to stabilise his disease.
Originally from Bristol, Dr Sims studied medicine at Leicester University and moved to Wimbledon, south-west London and worked at both Croydon and St Helier Hospitals.
He first set out to raise £1,000 for Cancer Research UK but soon reached £20,000, which he used to fund a Cancer Research UK PhD student.
He then upped his target to £100,000, which he reached last week.
Last year, Dr Sims won the Cancer Research UK Flame of Hope Ambassador of the Year award for his work with the charity.
He leaves his parents Chris and Sue, his twin, Dave, brothers Paul and Matt, and fiancee Georgie Latcham, with whom he had run a half-marathon.
His parents said in a statement: “Mark was a beautiful person inside and out; he had such a straightforward and selfless approach to life. We are in awe at the way he turned the negative of a devastating prognosis into a positive of raising awareness of and funds for Cancer Research UK. It is his lasting legacy.”
On his blog page, Wrestling Melanoma, his mother wrote: “On the 4th January Mark was given the news that there was no more treatment that could stabilise his cancer. When asked by one of his consultants if he would like to stay, he said confidently ‘Why not? This is the best hospital in the world and I am your favourite patient. Why would I go anywhere else?’
“Mark always had the ability to draw people in and even in the last days of his life made a huge impact on everyone who met him for the first time, having already had a profound effect on the melanoma team who have looked after him for 23 months. His closest friends came in to see him and between us all we made sure he never had time alone.”
Ms Latcham wrote: “Watching my 28-year-old fiance cruelly robbed of his sight, hearing, swallowing, walking, speech, along with any chance of a future was heartbreaking and wrong.
“He still managed to be so caring of others around him, worrying that he had not replied to messages or that we would hurt our backs when we stretched his legs.
“In his final hours he was surrounded by all of us, we held his hand and kissed him ... Mark had requested ‘our song’, the song we would have had our first dance to at our wedding.
“The music therapist learnt it and it was the last song we sang to Mark. This meant so much and I did not want to let go of his hand. We are devastated and it has not sunk in that I’ll never see him again.”
Ms Latcham said Dr Sims had been “determined to raise as much awareness as possible to beat melanoma”.
She added: “He has donated his body to research to help them find answers to beat this disease. He has written a book and he’ll continue to raise money for Cancer Research UK. I’ll never forget the memories and he will always be my hero.”
Simon O’Leary, head of volunteer fundraising at Cancer Research UK, said: “We are enormously saddened by this news.
“Mark became a doctor to save lives. But despite his own heartbreaking diagnosis, he still found the strength to think about others, starting his fundraising from his hospital bed and sharing his story to spread the word about the need for more research.”
Dr Sims’ brother Paul was diagnosed with skin cancer at a very early stage and managed to survive.
His twin David has never had cancer, but his father Chris had the disease, as did his grandmother, Marion.
Another relative, an aunt, Julia, died of pancreatic cancer aged 56 as a result of the defective gene.
Mark’s fundraising page is at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Mark-Sims5