With the high number of influenza cases continuing to climb across the country, the teenager was told he likely had the virus, too.
Hunter Brady, from the Tampa area, started to feel tired and weak late last year, then he developed aches and pains and a low-grade fever, according to a YouCaring page set up for the boy.
He was told to “let the virus run its course,” his cousin wrote on the fundraising page.
“I just kept sweating a lot, like night sweats,” Hunter recently told ABC affiliate WFTS, which said he is 16 years old.
“As it carried on, I felt worse,” he added.
When the youth didn't get better, his family took him to a nearby hospital. Doctors soon discovered that one of his lungs had collapsed and was filled with fluid, and his lymph nodes were badly swollen.
It turned out Hunter did not have the flu.
He had stage 4B Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“Everybody else’s support helped me get this far. Without them, I don’t know where I’d be,” Hunter told WFTS in an interview earlier this week.
“I just know I've got to keep staying strong,” he added. “I’m being mentored by two pastors that told me God is always there, and when he told me that I just went along with what he said, and I got this far. I’m doing good. I’m going to beat it. I ain’t giving up.”
Hunter and his family could not immediately be reached for comment by The Washington Post.
Since the diagnosis earlier this year, Hunter has undergone a bone marrow biopsy and blood transfusion, started chemotherapy and had surgeries to drain the fluid from his chest, according to WFTS.
“I had chest tubes, and they took out all the liquid,” he told the station. “I feel a lot better now.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the flu can include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- And sometimes vomiting and diarrhea
Although the most common symptom of Hodgkin Lymphoma is a swollen lymph node, which typically appears as a lump under the skin, patients with type B lymphoma may begin to lose weight, develop a fever or experience night sweats, according to the American Cancer Society.
The organization defines stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma as having “spread widely into at least one organ outside of the lymph system, such as the liver, bone marrow, or lungs.” A “B” added to the diagnosis (such as stage 4B) “usually means the lymphoma is more advanced, and more intensive treatment is often recommended,” it states.
Hunter's mother, Cheryl Brady, said the family is trying to raise awareness about what happened to her son as he started fighting cancer.
“Hunter was bullied on Instagram and was told he deserved cancer. His cousin was bullied at school for shaving his head to support Hunter,” his mother wrote last week in a post on Facebook.
In response, Hunter told WFTS that he told the cyberbully, “I really didn’t care what he said.”
“He doesn’t know how it feels. So, when he does, he’ll realize and then he’ll feel bad. I hope he does feel bad,” he told the station about the incident.
Others have shown support for Hunter. The teenager posted a picture on Facebook showing him and his father with bald heads. The caption read: “Dad shaved my head. Then dad got his head shaved for me. Thank you dad.”
WFTS reported that some of the boy's classmates had shaved their heads in solidarity.
“He’s stronger than we are, definitely,” his mother told WFTS about her son.