Beating Cancer on the way to the big stage.

Mark Caldwell, singer for A Band Called Jack from Ashton Under-Lyne, Manchester has been a passenger of his own rollercoaster of emotions over the last eighteen months. Staring death in the face is certainly something that he didn’t expect to do, especially at 50 years old.

From around 13 years old, Mark (Coddy) began to take an interest in music. Growing up around the sounds of The Beatles, which was a very distinctive memory for Coddy when looking back on his childhood. So at around 18 years old, Coddy picked up an acoustic guitar – the rest is history. Although Coddy is adamant he isn’t a “brilliant guitarist by any stretch of the imagination” – it has still granted him the freedom to branch out on his talents. The guitar allowed Coddy to then go on and write his own music and lyrics.
Music has always been a hobby for the Mancunian singer, as he has been an engineer by trade for most of his working career – working for the Hyde Group company. Mark has always loved his job, being called a ‘great motivator’ and ‘dedicated’. Which have been traits that Coddy has carried over to all the focuses he has in his life.

August 2014 was when Coddy was diagnosed with Cancer of the thymoma. Which is found just under the lungs, making it extremely hard to breathe, speak and especially sing. At first Coddy lost taste and appetite, which resulted in a substantial amount of weight loss. Eventually Mark was in hospital, enduring continuous tests from doctors, making the whole situation feel very real for the 50 year old.

When speaking to Coddy, I asked if he ever thought he was nearing the end of his life, with the illness being so serious and rare. He continued to say “yes I thought it was the end, the thought of leaving my friends and family behind was the worst part”.

Being in hospital was a depressing time for the musician as he was away from his loved ones, his band and his guitar. Eventually though, against all the odds, Coddy was able to go home after a long and drooling operation, removing a large tumour from his chest. When defeating the cancer he was then left with a condition called Goods Syndrome, which weakens the immune system considerably. The last report from this extremely rare condition being from over 30 years ago. This condition will unfortunately be a part of Coddy’s life forever, however it is manageable.

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Coddy after undergoing major surgery to remove a tumour in his chest.

Moving into his back bedroom in his house in Dukinfield, he was able to reach some sort of safe haven. Away from all the doctors and tests in the hospital.

When at home, Mark would stand by his window and reminisce on his life. Describing his life “the great parts and the parts that I wish went differently”. Listening to music became an even bigger part of his life when he was at home. Listening to his main inspirations of today, bands such as I am Kloot and of course, the Stone Roses. Although the cancer took his appetite and his taste, he wouldn’t let it take his music away.

After a long wait, Coddy began to become stronger. With his taste gradually starting to return (black liquorish being the catalyst) the singing began to come back. Band practice was frustrating however with the singer not being able to sing to his full potential, understandably.

Not long after A Band Called Jack began to get back into being a band again, the lads from Ashton were given the privilege of supporting the extremely talented Scottish singer Paolo Nutini. Who was touring after releasing his ‘Caustic Love’ album which was voted album of the year by iTunes.

Both shocked and excited, the band packed up their gear to go to Castlefield Bowl in Manchester. Coddy said “I was both nervous and excited, but I just wanted to take in the energy to give a good performance” playing in front of 8,000 people is not something Coddy had done before. So moving from a Thursday night gig around the pubs in Ashton to playing at Castlefield Bowl was something himself and the band didn’t take lightly.

As the 8,000 people stood their in expectation, the band began to play. The biggest gig of their career was underway and the response they got was priceless. When performing on stage, Coddy seemed like he had a new lease of life and he sang with all his heart. Huge applauses from the audience allowed the very unorthodox band a very deserved reward of pride and accomplishment.

Coddy said “It was by far the best gig of my life and Paolo (Nutini) is a fantastic musician who I now follow closely”.

 

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Coddy (right) and A Band Called Jack with Paolo Nutini backstage (white)

 

The following Monday morning, Mark was back to reality, back to being an engineer. After a fantastic response on social media, the band certainly caught the attention of some new fans. As well as the attention from record company Mst Sounds. Now the band have singed their first record deal, with possibly two full vinyl albums being released.
When asking Coddy his thoughts of now being signed to the label, he modestly said that “I’m not getting too carried away”. Motivated by the music, the singer always gave off the impression that it was all about the ‘tunes’.

Eighteen months on, Coddy is still a working engineer. But, he is always in and out of the studio and writing music. Coddy sat as laid back as ever, said “keep your eyes peeled, ears pealed, everything pealed, there is music coming”.

The Goods Syndrome is still ever so present with regular visits to the hospital being needed. Coddy is as confident as he’s ever been when it comes to controlling it.

Be ready for the music, coming very soon in 2017 from Coddy and A Band Called Jack.

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