Derek Fitzgerald: Cancer, Heart Transplant, Ironman

Derek is the world’s only cancer survivor/heart transplant recipient to ever complete a full IRONMAN triathlon. Derek now dedicates his life to helping others going through their own healthcare journeys. When not speaking as an advocate for cancer research, heart health, and organ donation, he competes in endurance events and spends time with his wife and daughter Emma.


Part 24 | Gift of Life Gave Life

Derek talks about his quality of life after a couple of years of staying on top of his treatment plan. He was in great shape and only had to go to follow-up appointments once a year. However, the best part during this period of his life was receiving the news that his wife was pregnant with their daughter Emma.


Previous Chapters:


Part 1 | "You Have Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma"

"You have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma" was the first thing Derek heard when he was awoken by doctors during an exploratory surgery.


Part 2 | Signs & Symptoms

Derek explains the signs and symptoms he was experiencing when he decided to go to the hospital.


Part 3 | Unexpected Cancer Diagnosis

When Derek went for the exploratory surgery, he didn't expect to receive the non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis.


Part 4 | Exploratory Surgery

In this video, Derek discusses the importance of the exploratory surgery.


Part 5 | How Much I Knew About Cancer

Derek describes what he had learned about cancer through his work prior to his diagnosis. He never imagined any of it would apply to him one day.


Part 6 | Reaction to Cancer Diagnosis

Derek discusses how he reacted to being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


Part 7 | What Went Through Your Mind?

Derek describes the thoughts and questions that arose after receiving his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


Part 8 | The Most Difficult Moments

Derek describes the emotional and physical challenges from the effects of surgery and treatment.


Part 9 | Post Transplant Preparation

Derek talks about preparing for returning to his normal responsibilities without fully understanding how the transplant would affect him.


Part 10 | Experience with Chemotherapy

Derek recalls his oncologists' creative description of chemotherapy treatment. Also, he explains the challenges caused by the side effects of chemotherapy - including severe bone pain.


Part 11 | Reaction of Family & Friends

Derek talks about his family's difficulty in accepting his diagnosis and how he refused to accept people's "pity eyes". He talks about wanting to be treated as one would treat anyone else without a cancer diagnosis because he didn't want to get caught in a negative headspace


Part 12 | Heart Failure

Derek talks about a medication for his cancer treatment that is extremely toxic and wound up giving him heart failure.


Part 13 | Living with Heart Failure

Derek talks about what it was like to live with heart failure for 6-7 years - all the medications, depending on a defibrillator, and the possibility of his lungs filling with fluid. Ultimately, Derek was able to get on a heart transplant list.


Part 14 | Evaluation for Heart Transplant

In this installment of his 360 Interview, Derek talks about the process of being evaluated for a heart transplant and what is required before undergoing a heart transplant.


Part 15 | Preparing for Heart Transplant

Derek shares about being put on the list for a heart transplant and how he tried to continue about his daily life. He and his got mentally prepared and also got a lot of important documents together, such as a living will. They hoped for the best but prepared for the worst.


Part 16 | Getting the Transplant Surgery

Derek reflects on going through the holidays with heart failure and catching a cold that turned into pneumonia. Derek went into cardiac arrest and was ambulanced to the hospital. On January 3, 2011, he was informed that a heart had been found for him.


Part 17 | Waking Up After Surgery

Derek talks about what it was like to wake up after a successful heart transplant surgery.


Part 18 | How I Felt After Surgery

Derek talks about his recovery from a heart transplant. He discusses everything from post-transplant diabetes, to changes in diet, as well as physical therapy.


Part 19 | Recovery After Heart Transplant

Derek talks about recovering from his heart transplant, the dietary changes he had to make to overcome post-transplant diabetes, and the lifestyle changes he made to honor his donor.


Part 20 | Exercise After Heart Transplant

Derek talks about the challenges he faced as he first began to exercise after receiving heart transplant surgery. He details the long process of cardiac rehab, his brief glimpse at a runner's high, reminders of what it meant to be healthy, and wanting to honor his donor by training seriously and purposefully. Also, he speaks about the progression of his running/triathlon career as a way for him to give back to the organ transplant community.


Part 21 | From Heart Transplant to Ironman

Derek talks about his decision to compete in a full Ironman, making him 1 of 2 men to attempt this event after having undergone cancer and a heart transplant. The two of them collaborated to create a heart transplant endurance team- Tin Men Endurance Racing. Their goal was to celebrate second chances, honor their donors, and raise awareness through sport. Also, he talks about being the first person to complete the iron man with a transplanted heart, and the most joyous event of all- the news of his wife's pregnancy with his daughter Emma.


Part 22 | Speak Out

Derek talks about why he appreciates the opportunity to share his story. He explains the sources of doubt and bleakness while undergoing treatment, in addition to his pleas to others in similar circumstances to hold on to hope for something better.


Part 23 | Relationship with Donor Family

Derek talks about the process of communicating with the donor family via letters. His letter had to be reviewed and could not contain personal information to maintain privacy. Though he knows nothing about his donor or their family, he voices his immense gratitude for that person's decision to save a complete stranger's life.

Join the community!

You must be a member of healtheo360 in order to view this group

Register with Email Address

Already a member? Click here to login

healtheo360 believes strongly in user privacy.