Update: Philip’s battle with cancer has ended.
Even before you get to the cancer raging through his body, Philip Shank has the kind of story that makes you marvel at the human spirit.
Raised partly in Montgomery County foster care, Philip is the youngest of eight biological siblings.
He’s biracial. He’s gay.
In high school, those facts sometimes meant there was a mark on his back. He was judged.
As I learned when I interviewed him for a story that ran in January, Philip is a scrapper, but he’s also a smiler with a spirit moved that propelled him forward despite the high huddles.
Philip is an inspiration.
He’s also a 21-year-old “kid.”
When I called him in Miami to catch up last week, he told me about partying with friends and photo shoots on the beach.
He and a guy he had been exclusively “talking to” broke it off.
“I try to not vent much on social media,” he said. “I always want to put my best foot forward. I know Beyonce (Philip’s hero) probably cries and does things behind closed doors. I like to have fun, and I am crazy like everyone.”
Philip also told me he won’t be alive much longer.
He is in pain even though you can’t tell by his Instagram and Twitter pictures.
“I’ve accepted that no one lives forever, and I’ve lived an amazing life. Everybody’s journey is different, but I feel like I’ve lived a complete life,” he said. “I definitely don’t believe this is my last month, but if it is, it is and I am here (now).”
A few days later, he texted to say he was coming home to Dayton.
His health had taken a turn for the worse.
Doctors first told Philip that cancer would mean his life would be a short one when he was a 19-year-old Wright State student.
Eight months ago, doctors gave him six months to live.
The non-seminomatous germ cell tumors first found in the mediastinum (a section between his lungs) had spread to his lungs, spine and near his heart.
His acceptance of his fate is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
He says he is not scared.
“A lot of people reached out to me ‘like I believe in miracles’ and that is dandy and so do I, but I know my body,” the 2011 Miami Valley Career Technology Center graduate told me.“I know how my body feels and honestly my body is tired. I am an optimistic person, but I know my time is coming, and I don’t have an issue with that.”
It hard to hear that anyone is dying, especially someone so young with so much obvious potential.
Philip had plans to be a journalist.
He has the look and pose one can easily imagine seeing on CNN.
He wanted to see the world.
Philip was studying at Kent State when he decided against chemo after the cancer came back with a vengeance in August.
It would have only extended his life a few months. Philip wanted to enjoy life. He says he has.
“I don’t think my life could be any better,” he told me. “I love who I am as a person, and I have no regrets and I am content.”
More than anything, Philip says he is sad for his family members and friends.
He has been trying to fit as much life in as he can. That has helped keep him going.
“It seems like it is always another event coming up or another birthday,” he said.” It is tough cuz I know I can’t be there for everything.”