‘My extreme tiredness turned out to be blood cancer’: young Manchester athlete raises awareness of condition

When chronic fatigue started to affect Andrew McAslan’s performance on the track, it took him months to get a diagnosis - after being wrongly told he was too young for it to be cancer.

An 800m athlete who has been given a devastating incurable blood cancer diagnosis wants to raise awareness of his condition in the hopes of finding a cure.

Andrew McAslan, 25, has competed at British Championship level in the sport and trains at Leeds Beckett University.

Andrew, who is originally from Manchester, started to notice a change in his health in January this year, with chronic fatigue affecting his performance on the track.

Andrew McAslan, 25, has competed at British Championship level in the sport and trains at Leeds Beckett University. Pic: Andrew McAslan

After multiple scans, Andrew was advised not to worry and that it was likely a bout of irritable bowel syndrome or a similar condition.

However, months later, scans revealed Andrew in fact had stage four follicular lymphoma - an incurable blood cancer.

‘I was told I was too young for cancer - but I might have had it 4 years’

“I was experiencing strange symptoms for months, along with unexplainable dips in my training and performance, ” Andrew said.

“I was told by multiple doctors that I was too young for it to be cancer.

After pushing for scans and further tests it became apparent what was really going on.”

As follicular lymphoma typically grows slowly and might not cause any symptoms, it is often advanced by the time it is diagnosed. In Andrew’s case, medics believe he may have had the condition for up to four years.

“It was a massive shock, ” Andrew said.

He is now hoping to raise awareness of his rare condition in a desperate search for a cure.

He said: “Unfortunately my cancer is currently incurable, therefore even if remission is achieved, it will still be living in my body and there is a high chance that it will start growing again. However there is no indication of when and how severe.

“I would like to raise awareness for this disease and the amazing work that the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation are doing.

“Their aim is to find a cure and after speaking to leading experts in the field, they are confident that this is possible.

“The fight against this disease has been underfunded for so long, therefore the time, resources and money required to find a cure have not been available.”

Andrew McAslan, 25, has competed at British Championship level in the sport and trains at Leeds Beckett University. Pic: Andrew McAslan

More than £2m was raised in a fundraising weekend by the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation, supported by the vice-president of Facebook, Nicola Mendelsohn.

Andrew has had to stop his training while he undergoes a gruelling course of immuno-chemotherapy.

His aim is to be given a “no evidence of disease” prognosis, however he also understands there is a high chance the cancer would return in the future due to his young age.

“Right now, every day is a struggle”, Andrew said. “I just want people to be aware of the condition and to learn a bit more about it to be able to spot the symptoms.

“I will do all I can do to recover and get back on the track to do what I love.”

What is Follicular Lymphoma and what are the symptoms?

The foundation says follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Lymph glands form part of your immune system and act as a filter to help fight infection. Lymphoma develops when abnormal white cells are made that don’t work properly.

Symptoms vary from person to person and some people don’t have symptoms. The foundation says the most common sign is painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin due to enlarged lymph nodes, and can also include fevers, an infection and drenching night sweats. Less common symptoms include itching, loss of appetite and fatigue. Speak to your GP if you are concerned.

You can find out more about the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation here.