Skip to content

25-Year-Old Shares Subtle Lymphoma Symptoms That Were Misdiagnosed

"My mind went blank almost," the young cancer patient said of his surprise diagnosis.

Attributing chest pain or a stubborn cough to heartburn or a lingering cold may seem harmless—but sometimes, these seemingly mild symptoms can be warning signs of a severe health ailment like non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Nearly 81,000 people will be diagnosed with NHL in 2024, according to the American Cancer Society. But as one young patient now shares, some NHL symptoms can be subtle and easy to misdiagnose.

RELATED: 34-Year-Old With Colorectal Cancer Reveals the Warning Signs He Missed.

Jace Yawnick was diagnosed with primary mediastinal B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Jan. 2024 at 25 years old. However, Yawnick's first onset of symptoms dates back to Aug. 2023, when he was misdiagnosed and treated for acid reflux.

The coughing spells first caught his attention, Yawnick told People. In the beginning, his laugh was accompanied by a bad cough. This turned into ragged breathing that would become quickly exacerbated by exercise, which caught the in-shape 25-year-old extremely off guard.

On top of his respiratory symptoms, Yawnick had acute back pain and felt more fatigued than usual. After speaking with a group of doctors and specialists, Yawnick was told he had acid reflux.

Acid reflux may present itself as chest pain, a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), an ongoing cough, trouble swallowing, and inflammation surrounding the vocal cords and in the throat, according to Mayo Clinic. While Yawnick's symptoms were a close match, they didn't subside with the prescribed medication.

Yawnick eventually got a chest X-ray under the discretion of a chiropractor, who feared he possibly had a chest hernia.

"That same day, they came back with the report. They didn't find a hernia, but they discovered a mediastinal mass and two shadows around my heart," Yawnick said in his interview with People.

A subsequent CAT scan showed three tumors cushioning Yawnick's heart.

"I didn't even know what that meant. So I looked it up and said to myself, this is not good. This is not good at all," he continued.

Yawnick underwent multiple biopsies and a PET scan before learning he had primary mediastinal B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The diagnosis came nearly six months after he first noticed his cough in 2023.

"My mind went blank almost," Yawnick said of when he first learned of his cancer diagnosis.

He added: "It's kind of like a flash-bang went off; you're just smacked in the face with the news. I was in tears because I didn't know what to expect. I mean, I just got diagnosed with cancer, and I'm 25 years old, and I'm wondering if this is the end."

RELATED: Christie Brinkley Shares Surprise Skin Cancer Diagnosis—These Are the Early Symptoms.

While NHL can develop at any age, it's one of the most common cancers among young adults. Primary mediastinal B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma happens when B-cells become abnormal or cancerous, making it harder for the body to fight off infections. (B-cells are "a type of white blood cell that makes antibodies," according to the National Cancer Institute.)

"The abnormal B-cells (lymphoma cells) usually develop in a part of the lymphatic system called the thymus gland," explains Macmillan Cancer Support. "They then build up in lymph nodes behind the breastbone and between the lungs" in an area called the mediastinum.

In Yawnick's case, his treatment plan includes multiple 96-hour rounds of chemotherapy. Once his doctors clear him for the next step, he will begin a daily radiation treatment that lasts four to six weeks.


Beating Cancer at 25: Ive learned a lot about life from coaches, meantors, and role models. This is a lesson that I never realized would help me in anything other than baseball. Thank you to my coach and all those who have taught me valuable lessons about life. #cancersucks #youngadultswithcancer #beatcancer #mindset #cancer #nonhodgkinslymphoma #letsbeatcancer #cancerfighter #Jacebeatscancer

♬ original sound – JaceBeatsCancer

Yawnick remains hopeful about his future and is using his platform to inspire other cancer patients never to give up. This includes his Instagram account @jacebeatscancer, where he shares updates about his journey.

"I hope one day when it is my time, my legacy is that I helped a lot of other people live out the rest of their lives because I didn't know if it was going to be over for me at 25. And it doesn't matter how old you are—cancer sucks—but I want to help everybody live as much life as they can live," he concluded in his People interview.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
Filed Under
Sources referenced in this article
  1. Source:
  2. Source:
  3. Source:
  4. Source: