Just weeks after being diagnosed with the flu, a 16-year-old boy from Florida discovered that he actually had stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
When Hunter Brady, of Hudson, began to feel sick, weak and short of breath in November, his parents took him to his physician. The doctor said he had a virus that was most likely the flu and sent him home with antibiotics.
“I was on the antibiotics for two weeks and was feeling worse,” Hunter tells PEOPLE. “I had to sleep sitting up. My dad looked at me one night at dinner and said we were going to the hospital.”
When Hunter arrived at Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, Florida, a CAT scan revealed that his entire right lung had collapsed and his left lung was 30 percent collapsed.
“They said this was the worst X-ray they had ever seen on a child,” Hunter’s mother, Cheryl Brady, tells PEOPLE. “He was then sent to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa because they had a pulmonary doctor.”
When he arrived, Hunter underwent five surgeries to drain fluid from his heart and lungs. Then the hospital performed a biopsy on January 4 that revealed he had the most aggressive form of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“I was shocked and so scared,” says Hunter, who started aggressive chemotherapy treatment on January 8. “But I knew I could beat this so I stayed positive. I kept a lot of faith.”
The teen who dreams of being a pastor one day says that his mentor, who is also a pastor, and his mom, have showed him “that I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
Since his diagnosis, Hunter — who has always loved being outdoors and fishing with his siblings — has received several rounds of chemotherapy and has a survival rate of about 65 percent. He returned home on Tuesday and has two more treatments and will then start radiation.
“The community has come together and so many people have reached out,” says Cheryl. “It inspires him to want to push forward and beat this. We feel very blessed by that.”
The family has also created a YouCaring fundraising page to help with medical expenses that are not covered by insurance.
“There is no turning back,” says Hunter. “Hearing from people that I’m an inspiration has made me feel better than I ever could have imagined.”