Among the thousands of people running in the Philadelphia Marathon races this weekend was Evan Freiberg.
The New Jersey radiologist lost part of his leg to leiomyosarcoma and is still undergoing chemotherapy, but says thanks to research, he’s not slowing down.
“It’s been almost two years since the MRI showed that mass,” said Freiberg as he warmed up before the 8k race on Saturday. “Obviously, a lot has changed in my life. I had an amputation, lung surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
“But on the other hand, I drive the same car, I have the same wife and kids, same job. And if anything, I’m more active because I just know I need to be cognizant to stay active,” he said.
Freiberg ran a few marathons before his diagnosis, but with a young family, wasn’t able to train regularly. These days, he’s excited to see what his new leg can do.
“I got my running leg in April,” he said. “This will only be my second event with a running leg. They’re great, they’re lighter and they give you a little bit more bounce than a regular leg and it’s very exciting.”
As a father of two, Freiberg can’t resist a dad joke. Putting his everyday prosthesis into a duffel bag he said, “I told my wife, ‘Well now you can say I have two left feet.’’’
But he admits before his own amputation, he did not know much about prostheses. Held in by a quick-release bolt attached to a special sock, the carbon fiber foot is jointed to a custom mold fitted below his knee.
“It’s actually hard to just walk,” he explained. The foot’s tension gives his gait an uneven bounce when he’s not running. Though they’re not practical for everyday use, custom athletic prosthetics aren’t cheap, costing thousands of dollars. Freiberg got his thanks to a grant from the Challenge Athletes Foundation.
His ongoing chemotherapy treatment also reflects a modern-day survivor’s experience. The drug he’s on, Lartruvo, was approved by the FDA last October, just two months before he started his treatment. Unlike old versions of chemo, Freiberg says these newer, targeted therapy drugs leave him with energy to live his life.
“I worked on Tuesday. [Then] I went for the infusion after work and was up Wednesday morning for work again,” he said.
As a radiologist who specializes in breast imaging, cancer awareness is part of Freiberg’s everyday life. He sees many patients who are going through some of the same things he did.
“I don’t mention it to all the patients,” he said. “But if it comes up in conversation, or especially if I see the cancer survivors, then I congratulate them and tell them we are in a select group. And I just lift up my left pant leg a little bit.”
Freiberg completed Saturday’s 8k in one hour, 14 mins and 49 seconds.