The Australian fashion industry was reeling yesterday following news one of its leading lights, Mark Keighery, had finally succumbed to cancer after nine years.
Mr Keighery died at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital just after 10pm on Thursday, aged 53. With him were his wife, Lisa, sons Jack, 11, and Harry, 8, and several close friends. It is understood he was admitted to the hospital earlier in the week suffering from an infection which had resulted from recent surgery in the US.
First diagnosed with kidney cancer, Mr Keighery fought a long and public battle with the disease, which spread to his lungs. His resilience won him many admirers beyond the fashion world as he focused his attention on raising public awareness about cancer.
The disease forced him to sell his Marcs fashion empire in 2002 for $22 million, although he retained his interest in the Diesel fashion chain. He recently listed the Unicorn Hotel in Paddington for sale, asking $9 million.
By 2005 his 183cm frame had wasted away to just 55 kilograms but he refused to succumb to the illness, reportedly embarking on a course of the powerful cancer-inhibiting drug Sorafenib (marketed as Nexavar) and "electrical" acupuncture.
By August last year, things were looking brighter for the millionaire rag trader, who counted the likes of James Packer and Jeff Fenech as friends.
A year ago he told reporters: "I've put on 20 kilograms in 12 months but I couldn't be happier about it. The most important thing is, I'm still here."
In April last year doctors at the Royal Prince Alfred and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, where he spent $50,000 a week on radical treatment for secondary lung tumours, told him he would not survive any more surgery.
As his treatment options narrowed over the past 18 months, the Chinese acupuncturist Leo Fang, of Bondi Junction, was attributed with helping to bolster his health, enabling him to emerge from self-imposed hibernation to score for his son's cricket match at Heffron Park.
"It occurred to me that I was the one who had scored a century and I thought, 'How good is this?' " he said at the time. "I'm here for [my family] now 24/7 and I'm so incredibly appreciative."
Mr Keighery's funeral is expected to be held early next week.
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