Ethan Zohn: “My Cancer Is Back.”
Survivor: Africa winner Ethan Zohn, who has been fighting a rare form of Hodgkin’s disease and just completed a round of chemotherapy, has been told by doctors that the cancer is back and in a different location.
“I was off chemo. I was running up to seven miles” in preparation for November’s New York City Marathon. I was happy, I was going out. I went up to Boston to see the family and was feeling great…I have never been so scared in my life, for my life.”“It was a complete punch in the face…My mom was obviously upset. My brothers – everyone’s upset. They can’t believe it’s what’s happening. But on the flip side, everyone’s positive and supportive. You have to think positive. And you have to find the strength, which I will. And you have to rely on other people, which I will,” Zohn said. “The original mass is pretty well contained (but) there was re-growth. Two little nodules in a different location…It’s quite rare that not only is there re-growth, but that there’s re-growth so quickly. I was obviously resistant to the first form of chemotherapy.”
The new treatment – officially called risk-adapted high dose chemoradiotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation for patients with relapsed and primary Hodgkin’s lymphoma – will take place in three stages.
The once-shaggy-haired soccer player just emerged from the first part of stage one: He spent three days in a hospital last week, where he received a combination of chemotherapy drugs referred to as ICE. Since Zohn’s immune system was in such a fragile state, his girlfriend, Survivor: The Amazon winner Jenna Morasca, slept in a chair at his bedside each night dressed in a hospital gown, protective mask and rubber gloves.
After three weeks of rest, he’ll return to the hospital for a second in-patient ICE treatment that will last four days. Doctors will then harvest healthy stem cells from Zohn’s body and freeze them for later use.
“In stage two I will get blasted twice a day for 14 days with a high dose of radiation,” Zohn told friends via e-mail last week. “In the final and most difficult stage, I will be admitted to the hospital for 30 days (yes a whole f’ing month), to get my final chemotherapy session to start my stem cell transplant.”
Zohn says that both his red and white blood cell count will be brought down to zero during the month-long hospital stay – most likely in December – at which time his frozen, healthy stem cells will be reintroduced with the aim of replenishing his body entirely with non-cancerous cells.
“Then I’m cured,” he said in his e-mail to friends, showing his usual air of hope and humor. “Easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 … 1000 … 1,000,000.”
READ MORE: Ethan Zohn: ‘My Cancer Is Back’ (People)