BMT survivor sets a new pace

A high school track star and Marine recruit, Adrian Trotter lived and breathed fitness. So when he couldn’t catch his breath and felt his energy waning during a training run in summer 2011, he knew something was off. But at 18, he never dreamed he was in for the race of his life – one to defeat a very aggressive form of cancer.

Scans revealed tumors in his chest, and further tests determined Adrian had peripheral T-cell lymphoma. Under the watchful care of Stephen Smith, MD, pediatric hematologist/oncologist, he immediately began chemotherapy.

Long journey begins

Adrian endured not only pain, but losing his hair and his hard-earned muscle tone in the bargain. But he persevered, flexing his strong resolve and sharp sense of humor. His mother, Angela, headed his support system, setting up shop to work in Adrian’s hospital room.

“There are so many ups and downs with cancer,” Adrian said. “Some days, I would feel really happy, and then I would have a day with a lot of pain. It’s not something you can be ready for.”

And the biggest challenges were still ahead. In his last weeks of chemo, Adrian developed excruciating headaches. Scans revealed tumors in his spinal cord, brain and leg muscles.

Specialists collaborate

Dr. Smith was prepared with Plan B. Early on, he met with Joseph McGuirk, DO, medical director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s blood and marrow transplant program. The program is the largest in the region, with more than 1,900 successful procedures since 1977.

Dr. Smith understood the crucial importance of early referral for BMT patients. Research shows patients receiving transplants early in their disease have far better survival rates than those transplanted when their disease is advanced. He wanted to make sure they’d be ready for a blood or marrow transplant should Adrian need it. And now, he did.

The BMT team knew finding a donor match for Adrian wouldn’t be easy. Because of a great need for donors of ethnic backgrounds in the international donor registry, the chance of a donor match for African Americans is 35 percent, compared to 75 percent for Caucasians.

Beating the odds

Adrian beat the odds when a perfect match was found in an unrelated donor. His procedure – a blood stem cell transplant – was a success. By August 2012, he was in complete remission.

The pain and uncertainties of cancer treatment are behind him, but they have left their mark. Like all BMT survivors, Adrian faces the often daunting task of rebuilding his body, mind and spirit. He still hopes one day to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer.

“Now, it’s time to focus on getting back to being me, to my dreams,” he said.

Celebrating a milestone

Adrian will be in the spotlight at BMT Awareness Night at the Kansas City Royals game Saturday, May 11, at Kauffman Stadium. Next to his mother, he’ll be in the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat to celebrate his one-year milestone as a BMT survivor.

Learn more about The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s BMT program, or call