By Bob Denney | PGA Historian
AUSTIN, TEXAS | Mark Fuller didn’t make the 36-hole cut in the recent Senior PGA Professional Championship. However, he did cross the biggest hurdle of all – survival – months before arriving at the national championship.
Fuller, a 58-year-old PGA director of golf at the Golf Club at Surrey Hills in Yukon, Okla., was diagnosed on Jan. 24, with a gastrointestinal stromal tumor on his liver. The cancer was eating away at his right hip bone, which required a seven-inch nail to secure the hip to his femur.
“The doctor said that I was very lucky to see him when I did,” Fuller said. “He said if I had stepped off a curb wrong, it would have been catastrophic. Now, I am bonded for life with that nail.”
Fuller underwent chemotherapy and radiation to reduce the tumor, which had caused massive swelling in his feet, legs and other sensitive areas. He lost 40 pounds and once he tried to hit a golf ball, he also had lost some 40 yards off the tee.
The surgery to repair the hip led to a blood clot in his lung. Fuller was treated both in Oklahoma City and at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. During recovery, he was contacted by a longtime friend and current student, Jim Wetzel, a member at Oak Tree National Golf Club in Edmond, Okla. The pair met in 2004, when Fuller worked at nearby Oak Tree Country Club.
Wetzel, now 78, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May 2018. The cancer had metastasized into his bones. Wetzel is now in remission, and shared with Fuller the story of Joe Tippens, an Oklahoma State University fan who chronicled his own battle with cancer on a blog.
This is where the Fuller story takes a leap of faith.
For me to even be here is a miracle. I am a walking miracle.”
“I read Joe Tippens’ blog on mycancerstory.rocks,” Fuller said. “It’s a good 20-minute read. I highly recommend it for anyone who is suffering from cancer.”
Fuller later called Tippens to learn about the wonders of Panacur C, a parasiticide used to treat ringworm in dogs. Tippens used the drug to stage a recovery from small cell lung cancer.
Doctors had expected Tippens to live for no more than a few months.
“Joe met with doctors at M.D. Anderson, who said that they didn’t know what happened, but his cancer was gone,” Fuller said. “I called Joe a couple times and began taking Panacur C in February. I now take it five days a week.
“You can say what you want, but I am here to tell you that I am getting stronger every day. For me to even be here is a miracle. I am a walking miracle.”
Wetzel, a former airline pilot, had never had serious health problems prior to his cancer diagnosis. He began taking Panacur C and his health and his golf acumen improved dramatically.
“I am a dead man walking,” Wetzel said. “And, I am so happy to see Mark coming back. He’s doing what he’s doing with the pin in his hip. It’s a testament to the human spirit.”
Wetzel said that the combination of medical treatment and Panacur C is helping many who otherwise had given up hope.
“It all happened by word of mouth,” Wetzel said. “It is all about reaching out and helping your fellow man.”
Two weeks ago at the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa, Fuller gingerly walked from his golf cart to his ball for 36 holes at the Senior PGA Professional Championship. He posted rounds of 80 and 68 and missed the cut.
“I gave it as good a go as I could,” said Fuller, managing a smile after rolling in a 30-foot birdie on his 18th hole, the par-4 ninth on the Coore-Crenshaw Cliffside Course, in the second round. “I didn’t have expectations coming in, but I was glad that I made it here.”
Golf is now a supplement to the Fuller story.
“I am getting a scan on Oct. 17 and will hear the results on the 18th,” Fuller said. “I feel the medicine and treatments are working, along with the good Lord laying his hands on me.”
As for the excitement generated by Panacur C, Fuller said that he gets four to five calls a month from strangers asking him what he’s doing to fight cancer. “I can only imagine what would have happened to me had I lived in Virginia, Spokane, Wash., Delaware or Kansas,” he said. “I might never have heard of this drug. It turned out that it was happening in my own backyard.”
Fuller said that he has not experienced any side effects from the drug. “I am happy that I could be out here competing. I like to compete,” he said.
The Fuller support team includes his sister, Carrie, who was by his side through all appointments and hospital visits. His three children – son Austen, 26; daughter Courtney, 23; and son Brice, 18 – launched a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses.
This article was first published on PGA.com and is reprinted with permission.