By KAREN HARTLEYSource MSNBC|October 22, 2019| 6:57pm EDTMore than two decades ago, in 1992, Robert Johnson, then a 34-year-old fitness trainer in suburban Washington, DC, was diagnosed with the very rare brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme.
The tumor spread to the spinal cord, but Johnson’s tumor was small and manageable.
It didn’t spread to his brain.
Instead, the tumor was benign and died after just four months.
“I was fine.
I had no problems.
It was a long time coming,” Johnson recalled.
By the time he reached the end of his life, Johnson was diagnosed in 1996 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
He was an accomplished athlete, winning a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, where he competed in both men’s and women’s rowing.
He trained at the famed gym, The World Gymnastics Institute, and later began training with elite powerlifters in the area.
“I was just an athlete, so I didn’t have much time for doctors.
They didn’t understand how to treat it,” he told Newsweek.
“The doctors in the hospital told me it was going to be a couple of years before I could see a doctor.
And that was before they even got to me.
They just kept saying, ‘Don’t wait.
It will be OK.'”
Johnson said his doctors had a hard time finding the right drugs to treat his cancer.
“They said they could treat it with chemotherapy, but there was no cure.
And so I had to stay at home, working, training.
I was not getting any help from my doctors,” he said.
Johnson’s treatment was extremely slow.
“In two or three months, I was in the emergency room,” he recalled.
“And the hospital didn’t give me any medication.
And they were just kind of throwing me out.”
Doctors eventually managed to save Johnson’s life by injecting his lymphatic tissue with chemotherapy drugs.
He is now one of the most active, talented bodybuilders in the world.
In his 20s, he went on to win the World Record for the largest free-weight weightlifter.
He became a well-known figure in the fitness world, but at the time of his diagnosis, he was still a bodybuilder.
In 2002, Johnson went on a two-week, six-day weightlifting camp in Hawaii.
His first workout was with a gym named The World Gyms, which has since changed its name to The World Weightlifting Institute.
Johnson was in his third year as a coach and was on his way to winning the World Championships in Hawaii when he noticed a problem.
“My coach was telling me I could lose weight,” he explained.
“But I didn`t lose weight.
I lost weight because I was getting better.
And I was working on my conditioning.
But I wasn`t doing anything.”
Johnson was then diagnosed with brain cancer.
The tumors were benign, but they grew rapidly.
They eventually spread to a tumor in his brain and left Johnson paralyzed from the waist down.
“It was really horrible,” he remembered.
“You know, I just thought, I`m going to die.
I felt so stupid.
And you know, my body just started to break down.
I couldn`t even eat.
And then I lost a little bit of weight.
But then I was like, ‘I guess I have to stop training because I`ve got cancer.'”
After six months, Johnson began seeing a psychiatrist.
The doctor prescribed a blood test to see if the cancer was affecting his mental health.
He lost another 30 pounds in two months, but he was left with no hope.
“At the end, I started seeing this doctor, and he said, ‘You`re still a guy who is training.
You`re doing it right,'” he said of his doctor.
“He said, I think you`re just wasting your life.
You should just stop.
“His voice was shaking. “
I just started shaking. “
His voice was shaking.
I just started shaking.
And he said to me, ‘Robert, this is what I think about.’
And I just said, `No, you know what, I have no idea what you`ve been through.
I`d be lying to you.'”
The cancer treatment was expensive, and Johnson had to undergo several surgeries.
Johnson said he never felt better until he finished his surgery.
“It was so tough.
I never had any idea how I was going the rest of my life,” he recalls.
“When I got to the end in that surgery, my surgeon said, Robert, you have a brain tumor, so we need to take you out of the body.
And we`ve just finished with your brain tumor.
So we`re done with you.
So what`s left? You`