I was diagnosed with terminal cancer aged 20 despite being in peak physical condition – I mistook my symptoms as burnout
- A Georgia fitness influencer was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 20
- He had been experiencing night sweats, fatigue, and liver pain
- READ MORE: Mom, 35, with stage 4 lung cancer signs she ignored for years
A fitness influencer who was diagnosed with a rare but deadly cancer thought his symptoms were from ‘working too much.’
Lee Troutman, from Atlanta, Georgia, was diagnosed with late-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year after suffering from night sweats, fatigue, and liver pain.
Leading up to his diagnosis, Mr Troutman, then 20, was working out for 12 hours a day and training clients as a fitness instructor.
By the time doctors found the cancer, he couldn’t walk, talk, or eat. He had also lost half his body weight in just two months.
‘The doctors did not think I would survive,’ Mr Troutman said.
Mr Troutman is one of a growing number of young people being diagnosed with cancer in recent decades – a trend that doctors still don’t fully understand.
Lee Troutman, from Atlanta, Georgia, was diagnosed with late-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year after suffering from night sweats, fatigue, and liver pain. Just before diagnosis, he was working out 12 hours a day. By the time doctors found his cancer, he couldn’t walk, talk, or eat
Mr Troutman’s case was severe. The cancer had spread to all four lobes of his brain, the brain stem, spine, liver, ribs and hips
When he first went to the doctor in October 2021, he was diagnosed with mononucleosis, or ‘mono,’ which is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
Then, after multiple rounds of tests, doctors found hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), an immune system reaction that can cause organs to shut down, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).
NHL is a type of lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, the body’s disease-fighting network, which includes the spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and thymus gland.
It can occur anywhere in the body, but usually the first sign is swollen lymph nodes around the neck.
Other symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, include abdominal pain or swelling, chest pain, coughing, trouble breathing, persistent fatigue, fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.
NHL affects around 80,000 people in the US annually and 14,000 in the UK. It kills about 20,000 in the US and nearly 5,000 in the UK.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that nearly three-quarters of NHL patients survive after five years. Even after the cancer spreads, more than half live.
However, Mr Troutman’s case was severe. The cancer had spread to all four lobes of his brain, the brain stem, spine, liver, ribs and hips.
In May 2022, Mr Troutman finally received a bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor. After, he spent 200 days in quarantine and took 63 drugs every day to make sure the transplant wasn’t rejected. ‘The quarantine tested my sanity,’ he said. ‘It was hard not being able to see people for 200 days’
‘My mom and I found a doctor who agreed to take my case – he gave me hope with a five percent chance of survival,’ he said.
‘He said if I was to survive the lymphoma and aggressive cancer treatments, I would then need a bone marrow transplant.’
‘And after that, I would have a 70 percent chance of making it through.’
Mr Troutman was set to undergo the bone marrow transplant when his lungs collapsed twice. He was put on a ventilator and given a feeding tube.
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Once he was taken off the ventilator, Mr Troutman spent months in rehab to regain weight and muscle mass, while still undergoing chemotherapy, to be strong enough for the surgery.
‘During this time, I re-learned how to do pretty much everything, from walking to eating,’ he said.
He estimates he underwent at least 50 platelet and blood transfusions and more chemo treatments than he can count.
‘At the time I didn’t remember the treatments, but looking back, it’s overwhelming,’ he said.
In May 2022, Mr Troutman finally received a bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor. After, he spent 200 days in quarantine and took 63 drugs every day to make sure the transplant wasn’t rejected.
‘The quarantine tested my sanity,’ he said. ‘It was hard not being able to see people for 200 days.’
‘I was lonely, and it actually made me miss being in the hospital where I saw doctors, nurses and therapists regularly.’
Mr Troutman is now in remission and goes for regular tests and follow-up appointments to make sure the cancer doesn’t return.
‘The hospital saved my life, but I hope I never have to go back,’ he said.
Now, Mr Troutman is excited to get back to what he loves most: fitness and the gym.
‘I am finally looking forward to my future,’ he said.
‘If there is anyone out there going through something similar, stay strong, keep fighting and do not give up.’
‘If the doctors have given up, go find a new doctor.’
“Be your own advocate.”
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