I like to read… whether it’s long books, articles or short quotes. Words keep me going, so on Facebook I like a few pages that post encouraging and motivating sayings. Last year sometime I started following a page called L.U.N.A.R. (Lace Up Now And Run) which posts sayings related to making the most of life and running.
Almost every time I saw something L.U.N.A.R posted, I found myself agreeing and often sharing some of his posts on my Because I Can page. For a time, I assumed L.U.N.A.R was simply the page of person who loves to run, but a few months ago I realized that while it is the page of someone who loves to run… it’s also the page of someone who has and continues to face tough physical challenges. He posted this picture a few months ago.
Brain surgery? Second brain surgery?! I had to find out more about the story behind L.U.N.A.R.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Shawn Mastrantonio, I’m 43 years old and live in Sayre, PA with my wife, Kim, who is my rock. I have a rare genetic cancer syndrome called VHL (Von Hippel Lindau). As young child, I was familiar with this disease as my Dad, brother, and cousin had it. My dad and cousin along with other relatives previous to my birth passed away from VHL. I didn’t realize it then but through the challenges that VHL had handed to my family I was learning lessons about faith, acceptance of what is given you, and finding the strength to make the best of it. My Mom, who is one of the strongest people I know, (the other being my brother, Brian, who has had over 30 brain surgeries related to VHL) taught me so much through the way she lived her daily life.
There’s a common thought that we can overcome obstacles… I’ve found that sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t, but we can learn to live well even with difficult obstacles. What obstacles have you learned to live with and/or overcome?
I was diagnosed with VHL in 1993 when it was discovered that I had a large brain tumor and cyst in my right cerebellum. Given the type of tumor, hemangioblastoma which is common in VHL and the family history the diagnosis was easy. I had surgery and lived life for quite awhile as a “passenger” as my outlook was dismal due to what I had seen people go through with VHL. So, I lived a dual life. I took care of my body through working out but I also abused it by consuming alcohol. I didn’t think it really mattered and there were times that I didn’t think I would make it too far into my 40’s.
That changed when I met my wife in 2002. It didn’t happen overnight and is still an ongoing process as I carried a lot of anger and fear regarding VHL. Life was going good for us but I had stopped doing my annual MRI checkups to monitor any new brain tumors. In 2009 I scheduled a MRI after getting the “treatment” from both Kim and my Mom. The MRI found 3 tumors, 2 new and the 3rd (and most concerning) was a recurrence from my previous tumor.
That night I had my “pity” party and the next day I started running.
At that time, I was trying to run away from the new challenges I faced. I ran out of anger and fear but over the course of a few months that changed as running began to be a testament to the strength I didn’t realize I had. I used running as a tool to prepare to face battle, surgery, rather than run away from it. I got nearly 2 years of running to prepare myself and prepare myself I did. Then on January 31, 2012 I had surgery to remove the tumor recurrence. I came out of surgery well, that part is due to the great surgical team, but my body recovered very quickly and was only in the hospital for 3 days post op..
What goals have you reached that you or others thought you couldn’t?
Since surgery, I have run a few local 5k’s and 2 half marathons. The first was in less than 9 months from surgery and a new PR! I have some races planned this year as well but my overall goal is to continue to enjoy running as it is truly a gift. I am blessed everyday that I get the opportunity to run so I try not to take it for granted.
What motivates you to keep on doing what you can?
What I have learned from running is hard to explain. To me, it has helped me find strength I didn’t know I had, to face a challenge and the beauty of overcoming it, that we were born to run, I love taking in nature on runs and thanking God for the beautiful earth he has given us. I’m sure it is different for everyone but one thing I am certain of is anyone who runs will definitely say that running has changed their life.
What does a well-lived day look like to you… or in other words, if you knew you were dying tomorrow, what would you do today?
If I knew that I was dying tomorrow it would be a day filled with family, friends, laughing, tears, love, and of course I would have to squeeze in a run. It’s like the song by the Rascal Flatts, “I wanna be running when the sand runs out.”
Shawn says, “The main purpose of my page is to spread awareness of VHL. I am just one of many VHL WARRIORS fighting the battle.”
If you are like me, you’ve probably never heard of it VHL before, so click over to VHL.org and learn more about it.
Shawn is always encouraging others, so how about today we encourage him. Leave a quote and/or note of encouragement for Shawn in the comments below. And if you are on Facebook. go LIKE his page, L.U.N.A.R. and you’ll be encouraged everyday also.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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