CANCER... HEART TRANSPLANT... IRONMAN
Hello, my name is Derek Fitzgerald. After having a large tumor removed from my stomach in 2003, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The chemotherapy I received saved my life, but severely damaged my heart and ultimately led to the heart transplant I received on January 3, 2011. Along the way, I overcame severe weight gain and loss, a gall bladder removal, heart failure, diabetes, and death… twice. My survival has been greatly due to advances in medical science and the caring and generosity of others. Now that I’m able, it’s my turn to say thanks and do my part.
During my cardiac rehabilitation, I was able to build upon my therapy sessions to run in a 5K race, just eight months after my transplant. Two months later, I ran in my first half marathon and raised funds to help fight cancer with Team In Training.
In late 2011, I rejoined my friends at Team In Training and signed up for the St. Anthony’s Triathlon. In July of 2013, I became the first cancer surviving, heart transplant recipient to complete the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and the 26.2 mile run of the Ironman triathlon. Since that first 5K in September 2011, I have competed in over 70 different endurance events, including marathons, hundred mile bike rides, and several half and full-distance Ironman triathlons. Most importantly, I'm the proud father of a beautiful baby girl – something I had given up hope on ever being able to achieve. By competing in endurance competitions, I celebrate the new life I’ve been given and do my best to honor the anonymous donor that saved my life. My goal is to raise awareness of the issues faced by those with cancer and organ failure, and help fund new developments in the fields of oncology, cardiology and organ transplantation.
I run, I swim, and I bike because I can – because I survived. I do it to say thank you to all the people that supported me and to honor the people that didn’t make it this far. I do it because there are still so many that need our support. Everyone deserves a fighting chance – not just to survive, but to live.
Thanks for everything,