Aussie TikTok exec, 38, reveals shock cancer diagnosis just weeks after completing Sydney half marathon

Govind Sandhu in screengrabs from diagnosis announcement video
Sydney-based Govind Sandhu, head of Global Music Partnerships at TikTok, is urging others to get regular check-ups as he comes to terms with beginning an "aggressive" treatment plan. Photo credit: @govindsanhu / Instagram

A fit and healthy social media professional who completed the Sydney half marathon last month has shared his shocking health battle on social media, revealing he has recently been given a preliminary diagnosis of stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Sydney-based Govind Sandhu, head of Global Music Partnerships at TikTok, is now urging others to get regular check-ups as he comes to terms with beginning an "aggressive" treatment plan.

In an emotional video shared to his Instagram on Wednesday, the 38-year-old said he began to deteriorate following the half marathon, which was held on May 5. The day after the event, he began to go "downhill" with a swollen knee, he said, which he initially thought was due to a running injury.

"Just really bad body aches and sweats - everything that would make you think it was the flu, or COVID. Over a four-week period I just deteriorated," he said in the candid video, which was filmed over the weekend.

Sandhu explained he received the preliminary diagnosis after multiple visits to the doctor, including blood tests, ultrasounds, CT and PET scans, and tissue biopsies.

Some abnormalities above his pancreas and on his heart were detected and will need to be removed, Sandhu continued.  

"If it's cancer, the chemo - which I will start soon - will be aggressive, because the cancer is aggressive, and it should get [those abnormalities]," he said. "For now, they're starting to pump me with steroids and antibiotics, because I've been up and down with fever and sweats.

"It's safe to say that I'm about to embark on the biggest challenge of my life yet, and I'm going to do my best to keep everyone updated with my progress - the highs, the lows. Of course, I can't believe it, but at the same time, so many things are out of one's control.

"I've had my time to process the 'why me?' All the things I do that would make me think that I would be in a category not susceptible to this. But it doesn't discriminate - so get your check-ups, go get your blood work done, if you're feeling sick don't just try and fight it off. We're gonna get through this."

In a lengthy caption accompanying the video, Sandhu admitted he was "devastated" by the news and said his life has "forever changed".

"[There were] lots of tears, lows and moments of 'why me', as you can imagine," he wrote.

"I'm going to do my best to share my story across as openly and honestly as I can. Sometimes it will be in real time and others when I have the headspace (like this video). I'm sharing for my own healing and outlet and hopefully putting good vibrations and useful info into the world.

"Long road ahead, but this won't be the end of my story, it can't be! I'm 38 years old, lived the most blessed life to date and have so much more to live for. Reality is, I have a chance to fight this f**ker so I'll take the W there [sic].

"Life is beautiful, I am lucky and grateful for what I have. The mission continues."

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's immune system. It begins when the body produces too many abnormal white blood cells, called lymphocytes, which can cause tumours to form throughout the body. A stage four diagnosis means the cancer has spread outside the lymph nodes and to other areas of the body. 

Signs and symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can include swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin; abdominal pain or swelling; chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing; fever; persistent fatigue; night sweats; or unexplained weight loss.

According to Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is seen in all age groups, but is more common in people over 50.

While there is no known single or specific cause of lymphoma, the risk increases slightly in some patients with chronic infections, autoimmune diseases such as coeliac disease, or rheumatoid diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.