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Policeman who helped injured runner is now fighting cancer

A month after a photo of him helping an injured runner went viral, John Cain, a police sergeant in Georgia, learned he had pancreatic cancer.
/ Source: TODAY

Five months ago, John Cain helped an injured runner cross the finish line of a Georgia marathon. Now the running community is coming to Cain’s aid.

A charity race scheduled for Friday evening just outside Savannah will raise money to help pay medical bills for Cain, who was recently diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department

The 50-year-old patrol sergeant got the news about a month after he made international headlines last November for helping Robert McCoy complete a half marathon. The runner took a tumble about 200 yards from the finish line, hitting his head and scraping his knees and shoulders in the fall.

A photo of the two men jogging across the finish line went viral shortly after it was posted on the Facebook page of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, of which Cain is a 27-year veteran.

MORE: Georgia policeman helps injured runner cross finish line in honor of his late dad

McCoy gave his race medal to Cain and the two stay in touch regularly through social media.

Cain with runner Robert McCoySavannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department

In December, severe back and abdominal pains sent Cain to the doctor. Tests revealed he had pancreatic cancer that had spread to his liver.

Although Cain just finished his fifth round of chemotherapy, he said he plans to participate in Friday’s race, where he will be joined by McCoy and Casey Jones, the race photographer whose picture propelled both men to fame last fall.

“Without that photo, John probably wouldn’t be here because it’s been the love and the support and the prayers that the photo has generated that has kept him going,” said his sister, Stacy Armstrong. “He’s doing well as he can. He’s fighting hard, but we know we still have an uphill battle.”

John Cain with his wife and children holding flyers for his charity 5K run.Courtesy Stacy Armstrong

Cain said that ideally, his race would raise enough money that he could donate any funds left over from his treatment to charities supporting pancreatic cancer research.

Cain's family also has set up a Go Fund Me page to also help cover the cost of his medical treatments.

Cain with two of his childrenCourtesy Stacy Armstrong

Cain said the response to his race photo with McCoy sparked a connection with the local running community for which he feels immense gratitude. He said well-wishers from across the globe also have reached out and provided him with encouragement that keeps him motivated.

“I’ve had people from all over the world send me letters and send me prayers through social media,” he said. “Runners have a fellowship. Being out there with that group of people and having that camaraderie, I think it has lifted my spirits to continue to fight, fight, fight for a cure."

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.