Athlete, 25, Diagnosed With Incurable Cancer After IBS Misdiagnosis

A 25-year-old middle-distance runner diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer has helped raise $3.4 million to assist scientists in the search for a cure.

Andrew McAslan, from Leeds in the U.K., was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin follicular lymphoma this year after a series of misdiagnoses, including being told he has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

"I called the GP and explained and they initially went straight to saying I had IBS. I even pushed the blood tests to see what was going on," McAslan told The Mirror.

The athlete explained that after initially taking the treatment for IBS, he went for a second opinion. Two more consultants diagnosed the bowel condition, saying it may have been brought on by stress. One even ruled out cancer as they believed McAslan was too young to have the disease.

After lumps developed under the young runner's chin and on his neck, he was sent for a biopsy. In July this year, he received the news that he was suffering from the incurable, but treatable, form of cancer.

Announcing the diagnosis on his Instagram page, McAslan wrote: "Tumors had started to appear on my neck & I was finally taken seriously... the consultant said that I will have probably had FL for around 3-4 years and that it has just been slowly growing."

The athlete added that his life had been turned upside down, with thoughts of moving to an international-level athletics career turning to survival.

"I am so thankful that my cancer can be treated but the long list of short term and long term side effects of this cancer and treatment, especially as an athlete, has been devastating," he continued.

This past weekend, McAslan joined in a campaign that aimed to raise money to search for a cure for this form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, organized by the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation.

The international fundraiser, organized in part by Facebook executive Nicola Mendelsohn, who was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma four years ago, raised over $3.4 million.

The organizers of the fundraiser say that it was timed to mark almost 100 years since the first diagnosis of follicular lymphoma.

"Follicular lymphoma is the 2nd most common non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And there is still no cure," the organizers wrote. "Research and science have progressed rapidly—survival rates for some cancers have increased dramatically. Yet follicular lymphoma receives comparatively little funding and little attention.

"Nobody should live with an incurable cancer—when we can change that."

Follicular lymphoma is a slow-growing form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that arises in the B-lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

The condition is considered chronic, with patients being able to live many years with the disease, yet it is usually incurable.

To sufferers of follicular lymphoma, this comes as little comfort. McAslan explains in his Instagram post how the phrase "this cancer is incurable but can be treated" left him uncertain about his future.

"I'm still trying [to] process that sentence & the uncertainty around it," the athlete wrote. "Never could I have imagined that I would be in this situation at the age of 25. I will keep having to go through these treatments as long as there isn't a cure out there and once I have exhausted them all, there won't be another option to turn to."

Patient
A stock illustration of a male patient on an IV drip. An athlete was diagnosed with an untreatable form of cancer this week after being misdiagnosed with IBS. Patarapol Prasit/getty