Man with one lung defies odds, completes 5th marathon after doctors said he'd never run

Greg Gerardy completed the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon for the fifth time this Sunday and it is a huge deal. You see, Gerardy only has one functional lung and despite this, he bagged this accomplishment not once but five times.

The 50-year-old from Oklahoma City was just 29 when he was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It was a "tentacle-like" tumor that wove through and around his neck and spine. But doctors mistook his pain for a pinched nerve initially and by the time a scan of the neck was ordered, the tumor had grown to a considerable level.

"When I came out of the scanner was when he told me I had a massive tumor around the spine, into the shoulder and upper thoracic areas," recalled Gerardy. "I've survived cancer three times over the last 20 years. I've also been recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder where my body’s immune system is basically attacking itself, most likely a long-term side effect of the chemo," he told TODAY.
Despite undergoing several surgeries to remove cancer, doctors could not prevent the growth from invading Gerardy's right lung. Describing the cancer as "not a nice little encapsulated tumor" but a "viney" one that wound around his internal organs, he noted how his right lung ended up becoming a paralyzed, collapsed mass of tissue that has grown into his chest walls.

But even this could not dissuade the man from completing triathlons, marathons, and part-taking in long-distance bike rides. While Gerardy was somewhat active before his cancer diagnosis, he began facing difficulty to even walking up a flight of stairs following the illness. But he did not give up. "I challenged myself to see what I could do little bits at a time," he shared.

"I have a little over half of what a normal person has due to the left lung expanding and adapting," said the father of two who says that listening to his body has helped him adapt to this active lifestyle. "If I'm digging a hole I have to stop and rest and let my lung refresh. You get used to it and listen to your body. If you need a break, let some oxygen get in there," he explained.
Gerardy noted that most rehab programs today are aimed at getting people off oxygen and out of hospitals. However, there's hardly any that stressed on giving hope and getting them back into an active lifestyle, and the 50-year-old hopes to see a change in this. "That’s one of the first things doctors say, 'You’ll never run a marathon again.' But we can still do these things. There’s no reason people should give up hope," he shared.

"I run, bike, swim, hike, snow ski, water ski, play volleyball, climb, and whatever other opportunities come along for activities," said Gerardy who admitted he wasn't always this positive. "There was a point when I was stuck in a black hole watching life go by. I kind of got to a point where I said, I can’t live like this anymore. I’ve got to at least try to do something and be an example for my kids. They’ve never known me healthy; they’ve only known me sick," said the father who decided to prove his doctors wrong.

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