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Male hoopster’s cancer discovered through pregnancy test

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Male hoopster’s cancer discovered through pregnancy test

As unusual as his symptoms, Clayton MacLagan’s cancer journey has taken several unexpected turns. Now he is at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

The pain was in Clayton MacLagan’s lower left back and abdominal area. Then he began coughing up blood. He couldn’t imagine the diagnosis was cancer. He’d been healthy all of his life.

In fact, standing at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, MacLagan was part of Valparaiso High School’s two time basketball sectional championship team. He remembers one of his best athletic moments as “dunking the sectional semifinal game to seal the deal.” After graduation, he went on to play for the Goshen Maple Leafs and study business. He had high hopes of becoming the best basketball player he could be and like most college students he enjoyed watching anime and hanging out with friends. His favorite athlete is Michael Jordan and he is an avid Chicago Cubs fan.

He’s the son of Scott MacLagan and Allison MacLagan; the older brother to Campbell MacLagan and a twin to Brooklynn MacLagan.

Life changed drastically on April 12, when MacLagan, age 20, learned he has testicular cancer. He went to a hospital closer to his home.

“They told me I had some form of cancer but they couldn’t tell me what kind. They found it through the urine in a pregnancy test. Every other test wasn’t showing anything,” said MacLagan. Specifically, he was diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, a rare tumor that forms in the testis. It is a subtype of germ cell tumors representing less than one percent of testicular non-seminomatous germ cell tumors (NSGCT). MacLagan was flown by helicopter to IU Health and began chemotherapy the day he was diagnosed.

“I was in ICU for 12 days straight not drinking, eating, moving or walking. Afterward, I was one of the few patients they'd ever seen to walk with a ventilator. It was a long journey and I lost about 25 pounds but I went home after three weeks,” said MacLagan. He came back for his next round of chemotherapy and again returned home.

“I was so used to being active and all I could do was sit on the front porch and or walk my neighborhood,” he said. He returned to IU Health again to start chemo and prepare for a stem cell transplant and ended up in progressive care because of complications. After another trip back home, he returned for another round of chemotherapy. At IU Health Simon Cancer Center MacLagan has been in the care of Dr. Nabil Adra.

“I thought that would be my last round because we thought we’d killed 80 percent of the germ cell but it began growing again at the end of July so they bumped me up again to intensive chemotherapy,” said MacLagan, adding that the tumor markers are going down.

Throughout his treatment, MacLagan has adopted the phrase, “Just breathe.” He wears the phrase as a tattoo, his family members wear bracelets with the phrase, and they designed shirts with the phrase along with his basketball jersey “#1.”

“It’s been a struggle with my friends going back to college and I’m going through this,” said MacLagan. “There were times going through chemo that I couldn’t breathe, so I tell myself ‘if I can just breathe, I can get through anything.’”

As he continues to look toward his future, MacLagan is following a new path. He has decided to transfer to IU Bloomington to be with is twin sister and some long-time friends.

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