RADJournals: Phil Shin
RADrabbit, Phil Shin
is someone we should all get to know!
Read all about Phil’s incredible journey over the past years balancing his running goals with a series of cancer diagnoses. Phil is truly an inspiration to all of us and we are so lucky to have him part of our community.
I'm not unlike any of the other runners in this squad. I'm just a regular guy blessed with a family who's trying to be the best version of himself through running. What makes my story a little unique is that I'm also a two-time rare cancer survivor and a liver transplant recipient.
Prior to my cancer diagnosis I was an avid runner having run over a dozen marathons and several more half marathon. So running was a big part of my life. In fact when I received my initial cancer diagnosis, I had just finished running the 2018 LA Marathon and was about to embark on a training plan to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon. I had to put those plans on hold to deal with living with hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare cancer of the liver.
In May 2018, I underwent surgery to resect the tumor from my liver just 3 weeks after my diagnosis. The surgery went very well and I was hospitalized for only 4 days. My medical team attributes my fast recovery to the fitness I had attained from running. I suppose you can say that running literally saved my life.
Once I recovered from surgery, I returned to marathon training again. My new lease on life renewed my purpose and I used running to express my gratitude for being able to do the things I loved. In the process, something transformational happened…I got faster. In October 2018, just 5 months after my surgery, I ran my fastest marathon by more than 20 minutes and qualified for the 2020 Boston Marathon. It was the greatest day of my life. I was finally going to run the Boston Marathon.
Less than a month later, the joys of achieving a lifelong dream came crashing down when I was told that my cancer had returned. This time I was told that my only curative option would be a liver transplant and that I would have to wait 3 years to realistically receive a liver from a deceased donor. Rather than take a gamble on living with cancer while waiting for a deceased donor, we instead pursued an option to seek a living donor who would donate a portion of their healthy liver to replace my cancerous liver. So we reached out to our friends and family seeking a hero to save my life.
While we were waiting for my liver donor, I kept running. And I kept getting faster. Rather than consume myself with the agony of living with cancer while waiting for someone to come forward, I chose to try and outrun my cancer. In the 6 months following my cancer recurrence, I ran 4 more marathons and qualified for Boston twice more, all while living with cancer.
Instead of using cancer as an excuse to prevent me from pursuing my dreams, I turned it into the fuel I needed to keep showing up and prove to myself and to everyone around me that it had no agency in my life.
In August 2019, my liver donor was confirmed. A good friend of mine named Mark from Portland, OR. Yes, he’s a runner too. This further proves my theory that runner friends indeed make the best of friends.
Three weeks later, Mark and I had our transplant. The surgery was an amazing success and we were discharged together in less than a week. 5 months later we even ran a half marathon together. Then a month later, Mark was right by my side when I crossed the finish line at the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon. That was just 6 months after my liver transplant.
My journey doesn't stop there. I'll continue to to keep running while bringing much needed awareness for organ donation and rare cancer support. I'm so blessed to have the rabbit family by my side as we try to redefine the possible for cancer survivors and organ transplant recipients.
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