Former NRL player Mark Hughes’ life changed dramatically in 2013 when he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour. At just 36 years old and with no family history of the disease, Hughes was taken aback by the devastating news. He initially thought his severe headaches were just migraines, but after a scan, doctors discovered a tumour the size of an avocado in his brain. This marked the beginning of a challenging journey for Hughes and his family.
After the tumour was detected, Hughes underwent surgery to have it removed. However, a week later, he received the news that he had ‘high-grade’ brain cancer. The tumour was about the size of a small avocado, leaving Hughes and his wife Kirralee in complete shock. They had to grapple with the terrifying reality of the diagnosis and how to break the news to their children, family, and friends. Despite the difficult circumstances, Hughes remained determined not to dwell on self-pity and chose not to search his diagnosis on Google.
Following the surgery, Hughes underwent one month of radiation therapy, followed by six months of chemotherapy. During this time, he couldn’t drive and spent most of his days at home, surrounded by his family. Hughes embraced a sportsman’s mindset and took up swimming and running to aid in his recovery. Fortunately, he didn’t experience any side effects from the treatment. However, Hughes acknowledges that there is no cure for brain cancer, and he now undergoes regular check-up scans every four months.
Despite the ongoing challenges of his health, Hughes has continued to push himself and seek new challenges. He has trekked Mount Kokoda, reached the base camp of Mount Everest, and even conquered Mount Kilimanjaro. In his pursuit of new adventures, Hughes stumbled upon a new gym in Newcastle that offered altitude training. He was instantly drawn to the experience and became a partner of the gym, now working out there four to six times per week. The gym, known as Air Locker Training, provides workout sessions with lowered oxygen levels, simulating high-altitude conditions and offering numerous benefits.
Altitude training forces the body to work harder, leading to increased red blood cell production and improved oxygen utilisation. The reduced oxygen levels also result in burning up to 30% more calories per workout. Additionally, altitude training can boost serotonin levels, improving mental well-being and decreasing stress levels. It enhances performance, endurance, productivity, and concentration while facilitating quicker recovery from injuries. Air Locker Training has made altitude training accessible to everyday individuals, not just athletes.
Hughes finds great fulfillment in his involvement with Air Locker Training and witnessing the positive impact it has on people’s lives. For him, everything he does holds meaning, whether it’s through his charity work or his partnership with the gym. He believes in living in the present, putting forth his best efforts every day, and making each rep count. Hughes has always had a strong mindset and has embraced his role as an underdog throughout his sporting career and his battle with brain cancer.
Driven by his personal experience, Hughes is committed to contributing to brain cancer research and raising funds through the Mark Hughes Foundation. He continues to inspire others with his motto, “make it count,” and encourages individuals to live in the moment, be grateful, and strive for the best in every aspect of life.