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Mark Pilgrim ‘leaves incredible legacy’ of openness about men’s health

Mark Pilgrim ‘leaves incredible legacy’ of openness about men’s health
Radio and television personality Mark Pilgrim. (Photo: Twitter)

The 53-year-old veteran media personality died on Sunday morning after a fierce battle against stage four lung cancer.

Veteran radio and TV presenter Mark Pilgrim succumbed to his battle against lung cancer at the age of 53 on Sunday morning, 5 March. 

His fighting spirit and openness about his journey brought strength to many. Pilgrim shared his health journey on news and social media platforms, saying it was “for anyone who is going through cancer or is supporting someone who is”.

An outpouring of tributes has followed news of his death.

“It was with great sadness that I share this news. Our hero and brother and much loved radio personality Mark Pilgrim lost his battle with cancer this morning at 10:45. He fought valiantly to the very end. Mark passed peacefully with his fiancée Adrienne [Watkins] at home. They were together for his last breath,” Hot 102.7 FM said on Facebook on Sunday.

Pilgrim was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in February 2022. He revealed on his YouTube channel that the cancer had spread to his femur, the base of his spine and lymph nodes.

Before being diagnosed with lung cancer, he had been in remission for 33 years from stage 3 testicular cancer. Pilgrim had also suffered a heart attack in his doctor’s office in 2008, which saw him lose 10% of his heart function.

Pilgrim hosted shows on 5FM, 94.7 Highveld Stereo, 94.5 Kfm and others. He was also host on several TV shows, such as Big Brother South Africa, Big Brother Africa and the game show Power of 10.

‘Indelible mark’

“The government is saddened by his passing. He has indeed left an indelible mark on the broadcast industry. Our thoughts are with his family and friends,” Nomonde Mnukwa, the acting director-general of the Government Communication and Information System, said in a statement.

“Pilgrim is a much-loved South African personality who fought cancer valiantly. He always took South Africans along the journey whilst hosting his shows… He documented his fight and journey with the cancer, including his battle with Covid-19, recoveries from surgery and the time he spent with his family. He has inspired many people in this process,” Mnukwa said.

Lucy Balona, head of marketing and communication at the Cancer Association of South Africa, told Daily Maverick she was still processing the devastating news of such an incredible cancer survivor who had done so much for cancer awareness.

“He made it okay to talk about having cancer. He demystified it in sharing his journey of the good and the bad, and he was such a professional to work with. He was our ambassador. So many people were so keen to meet him and he would always make time to meet them and take photos. He was so real and authentic. It’s really such a sad loss for everyone. He was such a special soul… He actually gave [people] hope.”

Pilgrim always brought positivity and humour to his often tough journey. His second-last post on Facebook, dated 2 February, includes a photo of him lying down with eyes closed. The caption reads: “A lot of sleeping the last few days. Body is depleted. After chemo and immuno Thursday it’s just been pouring out both ends. I’m like a shrivelled pea.”

Shortly after being discharged from hospital after 64 days at the end of December last year, he proposed to his partner Adrienne Watkins on New Year’s Eve.

Pilgrim again showed his commitment to fighting the disease in his social media posts: “Baby steps. Still have the end goal in sight where myself, Adrienne and the girls are walking on the beach with our future golden retriever.”

“The way he spoke about cancer, he made it okay to do so,” Balona said. “He let other cancer survivors know that they are loved and that people cared for them…

“He leaves an incredible legacy of men needing to talk about diseases that affect them and that there are ways to lower your cancer risk and that you don’t have to be alone, that there is help out there.”

Pilgrim leaves behind Watkins, two daughters, and his ex-wife, Nicole Torees. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steven D says:

    I worked with Mark at Hot. He was undeniably inspirational, a man who simply refused to let the world get him down, no matter how many shots it took at him. I will miss him.

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