Philip Shanks decided to live as big as he could for as long as his body would allow it.
The 21-year-old 2011 Miami Valley Career Technology Center graduate’s uphill battle with an aggressive cancer has ended. But not in defeat.
His sister Caroline Nichols announced his death on Facebook:
He had been fighting non-seminomatous germ cell tumors since age 19.
He learned in August that it had spread to his lungs, spine and near his heart. This news pushed him into overdrive. Doctors gave him six months to live. He nearly made it to his 22nd birthday in June.
“I refuse to let it define me as a person,” he told me then. “I am bigger than being biracial, being gay, having cancer. I don’t want people to say cancer took me out. Life took me, and I’ve enjoyed the ride.”
When I caught up with him a few weeks ago, he said he was blown away by the community’s response to his story and the number of people who said they were able to see their own situations differently due to his fight.
He said his phone “would not stop blowing up” and he had to put his phone on airplane mode because the situation, a first, was so overwhelming.
Philip said he was happy his story helped others.
“It is just crazy the amount of people that were able to connect with it,” he said. “It’s been so many people. The stories are so crazy. I just cannot believe so many people have been able to open up to me.”
Philip said he realized he was toward the end of his life and only felt bad for the family and friends who loved him so.
Sick and tired, he recently returned to Dayton from Florida, where he had been staying with a brother.
He told me about some of the fun he had been having and how glad he was that he truly lived life fully. He traveled, had fun with friends, served as maid of honor at his sister Caroline’s wedding and even got a hug from his idol Beyonce.
He reflected on learning the seriousness of his situation.
“It took me so long to accept that and now that it is really killing me, it is really not that big of deal for me,” he said. “I want to smile as much as I can.”