NEENAH (NBC 26) — For many people, running a 5k or a marathon is a bucket list item. Everyone who runs a race has their reason, their “why,” for doing it.
“Everybody has a goal they want to reach; everybody has a story. And if anything, it should motivate and inspire other people to think that they could do it too,” said Julie Johnson, Fox Cities Marathon race director.
Michelle Shoaf’s “why” just happens to be extra incredible.
“What’s great about Michelle is that she is living proof of reaching a goal that she has been planning for, that she has dreamt about. And to see her cross that finish line on Saturday, I hope that everybody cheers for her… I get teared up…. She really has made a goal for herself, and she wanted to make a statement by saying I can do this, and she will,” said Johnson.
On May 24, 2021, Michelle Shoaf went through a double lung transplant.
“I kept telling my sister, ‘I’m not breathing right,’ and she said, ‘Why don’t you go get checked out?’ So, I went and got checked out and I had COPD,” said Shoaf.
After struggling to breathe for years, Shoaf was put on oxygen. Things progressed rather quickly after that.
To keep breathing, Shoaf needed a lung transplant. She said someone was looking out for her.
“Who gets on the lung transplant list by the 19th and has their lungs by the 24th?” said Shoaf.
Shoaf calls it a new lease on life.
“If I could’ve done it over, maybe that’s why I got new lungs so that I could show people, you can do it over you know, stop smoking now while you’ve got a chance… because some people don’t have that chance,” said Shoaf.
They say after transplants, you can start picking up the traits of the other person. Shoaf is wondering if that person was a runner.
“I never thought about doing a marathon or even crossed my mind until the day they said, ‘Michelle, you can get another set of lungs.’ I said, ‘Yeah right,’ and they said, ‘Yeah, you can,’ and I said, ‘You know what, if I can get a set of lungs, I ain’t smoking, I ain’t doing nothing, then I can do a marathon,” said Shoaf.
So, she set out on her goal.
“I said I wanted to do it by this fall and my sister kept saying why don’t you do it the following fall, and nope. This fall is what I said and that’s my goal and I’m gonna do it,” said Shoaf.
Shoaf’s strength and persistence are what kept her going. Training for a 5k after a double lung transplant wasn’t an easy feat.
“I wanted to give up so many times,” said Shoaf.
Next to her during the race will be her son.
“Colton will say come on mom you got this, you got this, you got this, and I have to keep on going,” said Shoaf.
A piece of advice from Michelle is, “Don’t go back on your goals, keep on doing them.”
This will be her first 5k, thanks to her new lease on life.
This article was written by Olivia Acree for WGBA.