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This Transplant Recipient Survived Cancer and Heart Failure to Compete in Ironman Triathlons

April 10, 2017

Derek Fitzgerald competed in nine Ironmans—with someone else's heart.

 

In six years, Derek Fitzgerald has completed three marathons, four Half Ironman triathlons, and five full Ironman triathlons (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run). That’s impressive as is, but it's even more incredible when you realize the 44-year-old did it all after beating cancer, surviving heart failure, and receiving a heart transplant.

 

When he was 30 years old, doctors removed a tumor the size of a grapefruit from Fitzgerald’s stomach and diagnosed him with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The lymphatic system cancer affects more than 200,000 Americans each year, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fitzgerald spent the next five months undergoing chemotherapy. Within three months, he was diagnosed with heart failure, an uncommon side effect of chemo. In 2011, Fitzgerald received a heart transplant.

 

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