The fiancée of ESPN reporter Edward Aschoff said Wednesday that non-Hodgkin lymphoma contributed to his death on his 34th birthday.
Aschoff died on December 24 with a diagnosis of multi-focal pneumonia and a rare disease known as hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH).
Aschoff and others had expressed surprise about the seriousness of his illness, given his age and apparent good health.
His fiancée, Katy Berteau, revealed Wednesday that — though they did not know it until his lung biopsy after his passing — Aschoff had stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his lungs.
“Both pneumonia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma can trigger HLH in the body and that is seemingly what happened with Edward. All of this combined is what led to his very rapid decline those last few days, and ultimately his passing,” Berteau said.
Berteau said she shared the information to help the public understand and process his loss.
“I also wanted to provide this update because he would have wanted everyone to know that something way bigger than pneumonia took him down,” she said.
His illness kept getting worse
Aschoff went to the emergency room after a flight on December 1 for what he said was a virus that had “morphed into this monster.” He began antibiotics the next day.
December 4 and 5, he tweeted about having pneumonia.
Antibiotics did not work and he got worse, Berteau previously tweeted, and he began many tests, including ones that looked at his bone marrow and biopsies of his lungs.
Doctors began treating him for a presumed diagnosis of HLH. He died three days after being moved to intensive care.
What is HLH?
HLH is a rare disease that affects the immune system, making certain white blood cells attack other blood cells and enlarging the spleen and liver, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
It can be inherited or acquired, Johns Hopkins said. About a quarter of cases are passed down through families, and the rest come from infections, a weakened immune system and cancer.
Symptoms can include coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, headaches, rashes, swollen lymph nodes, jaundice and digestive problems, according to Johns Hopkins.
What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
Berteau described Aschoff’s cancer as “an aggressive type of cancer that is usually undetectable until it is very advanced.”
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that forms in the lymph system, which is part of the immune system that helps the body fight infection and disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The disease can be indolent, which spreads slowly with few signs and symptoms, or aggressive, which spreads quickly with severe symptoms, the institute said.
Signs and symptoms include swelling in the lymph nodes, fever, weight loss, skin rash and pain in the chest, abdomen or bones, according to the institute.