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'Survivor' winner Ethan Zohn: "My cancer is back," treatment resuming


By Christopher Rocchio, 09/14/2009 

Ethan Zohn will have to try and kick cancer once again.

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"My cancer is back," Zohn told People in a Monday report. "I have never been so scared in my life, for my life."

The Survivor: Africa winner revealed in May that he had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the body's lymphatic system. 

He then began an "altered, more aggressive" three-month chemotherapy schedule, which initially yielded positive results in July following a PET scan.  He subsequently underwent his final chemotherapy treatment later that month.

"I was off chemo," he told People. "I was running up to seven miles... I was happy, I was going out. I went up to Boston to see the family and was feeling great."

While his initial bout with chemotherapy left him hairless and frequently nauseous, Zohn said the mango-sized tumor in his chest shrunk significantly.

"The original mass is pretty well contained," he told People.

However Zohn said he received a call from his doctor on August 26 with post-chemo test results.

"There was re-growth," Zohn explained to People. "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 35-year-old Zohn described the re-growth as "a complete punch in the face" and added he waited to reveal the news to his family and friends until doctors started him on a new course of treatment.

"My mom was obviously upset," Zohn told People. "My brothers -- everyone's upset. They can't believe it's what's happening. But on the flip side, everyone's positive and supportive."

The new treatment -- which is formally called risk-adapted high dose chemoradiotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation for patients with relapsed and primary Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to People -- will take place in three stages, and Zohn described it as "hitting the reset button" on his body.

Zohn recently completed the first phase, which had him spend three days in the hospital and receive a combination of chemotherapy drugs. 

His girlfriend -- Survivor: Amazon winner Jenna Morasca -- slept by his bedside in the hospital, according to People, which added she was forced to wear a gown, protective masks and rubber gloves due to Zohn's fragile immune system.

Once he rests for three weeks, Zohn will return to the hospital for a second round of in-patient chemotherapy drugs, which will last four days.  Doctors will then recover 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 email last week, according to People.

"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."

The month-long hospital visit will most-likely occur in December, according to People, which added Zohn will have both his red and white blood cell count brought to zero before healthy stem cells are reintroduced with the goal of replenishing his body completely with non-cancerous cells.

"Then I'm cured," he said in his e-mail, People reported. "Easy as 1, 2, 3... 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9... 1000... 1,000,000."

Despite the long road ahead, Zohn has decided to remain positive.

"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," he told People.  "Whatever things are thrown at you, you've got to battle through with a smile on your face and the important people in your life around you."

(Photo credit CBS)


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