Rich Cronin, lead singer of the now-defunct boy band LFO, has been hospitalized with leukemia.
The 29-year-old was diagnosed on March 28 with acute myelogenous leukemia. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but it is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.
Cronin is being treated at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center near his hometown of Boston. He went through his first round of chemotherapy last week and will soon find out whether or not he will make it into remission. "I'm praying every second that this will come out of me," he said.
Cronin had been working on his first solo project since the 2001 demise of LFO, an Orlando, Florida, group best known for the single "Summer Girls." He began suffering from exhaustion and headaches in late February. "I started to feel tired when I would walk up stairs, and I would start getting pretty sharp headaches," he said. "But I never thought much of it, because I had always been a pretty healthy guy."
After he was finished recording in New York, Cronin traveled back to Boston to visit his parents, who quickly became concerned about their son's health. The singer went to a clinic, where he was tested for hepatitis A. When the tests came back clean, the doctors said he was suffering from a virus. "They just told me to let it run its course," he recalled.
Two weeks later, when he was still suffering from the same symptoms, Cronin's family urged him to see another doctor. The next day, he visited a family physician who told him he was suffering from mononucleosis. Cronin returned home to wait for the results of a blood test — but an unexpected call from his doctor at 10 p.m. jarred him awake.
"The doctor told me, 'You have one-third of the blood [you need] in your body, and it's putting an extreme strain on your heart. I need you to get to the emergency room right now and I'll explain everything to you when you get here,' " he said. Cronin rushed to a hospital in Boston, where a series of tests were quickly performed.
"Eventually, the doctor came in and said, 'There's no easy way to say this, Rich, but you have leukemia.' When he said that, it was like a train had barreled through the room. From that second, they've been treating me as a cancer patient."
Cronin, who had enjoyed the glitz and glamour of his celebrity lifestyle, has a different outlook now.
"In two weeks, this has completely changed my life and my perspective on it," he said. "The first thing you want to do once you hear the news is run, but you can't, because it's inside of you. You have no choice but to face it."
The singer has found overwhelming support from his family and friends, some of whom he had not been in contact with for years. 98 Degrees' Jeff Timmons, Jordan Knight, members of 'NSYNC and his former bandmates Devin Lima and Brad Fischetti have all reached out to Cronin.
Fischetti has been helping his former bandmate deal with legal matters. Cronin's insurance company is refusing to pay his medical bills due to a clerical error on their part, the singer said. "It's terrible. They're treating me like a piece of garbage." Cronin is currently paying the hefty bills out of his own pocket.
In the meantime, Lima is encouraging LFO fans to keep Cronin in their thoughts. "With all of your love, support and prayers, he will pull through this," Lima posted on his Web site.
Cronin hopes his decision to go public with his struggles will help other young patients suffering through the same experience. He said the proceeds of his forthcoming album will be put toward the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"I'm scared to death at this point," he said. "It is a nightmare of a situation to be in, but I really want to make something positive out of this."