US Olympic figure skater Maia Shibutani learns tumor removed was malignant

"I am young, healthy, and feel fortunate that this was detected so early,” the Olympic bronze medalist wrote.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Drew Weisholtz and Samantha Kubota

U.S. Olympic figure skater Maia Shibutani learned Friday the tumor she had removed from her kidney was malignant.

Monday, Shibutani posted a photo of her in a hospital bed announcing she had a small mass on one of her kidneys.

“It’s been a really tough week,” she began. “Back in October, I got sick and had to go to the ER while I was in New York. It ended up being a stomach virus, but they ran some tests that showed an abnormality - it was recommended that I have a follow-up appointment to take a closer look. After an MRI earlier this week in LA, I was told that I had a small mass on one of my kidneys.”

Shibutani, 25, said the development stunned her and she quickly began treatment.

“Receiving this news has been incredibly shocking and difficult to handle. I’ve been so scared, but I have had the full support of my family, doctors, and nurses,” she wrote. “I had surgery yesterday to remove the tumor. The surgery was successful and I was able to keep the rest of my kidney.

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She added there had been a lot of pain post-surgery but that she was grateful the tumor had been detected so early.

Friday, she announced the pathology reports had found the tumor was malignant.

"This wasn’t the news I was hoping for, but I am beyond thankful that it was detected early and that my surgery went well," she said. "No further treatment is required at this time - the next steps are for me to continue focusing on recovering and healing."

Shibutani skates with her older brother, Alex. They are known as the “Shib Sibs” and won a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. They also helped Team USA win a bronze medal.

Maia Shibutani and her brother, Alex Shibutani, compete in the ice dance short dance of the figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.Aris Messinis / Getty Images

Despite all that’s happened, Shibutani, a two-time U.S. national champion, remains optimistic.

“While this is deeply personal news, I don’t want rumors to spread, or for anyone to worry in case people say they saw me at the hospital," she wrote on Monday.

Wednesday, she posted an update, saying the pain has been difficult but "all of the messages of love and positivity have meant a lot and are so appreciated."

She said she was discharged from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, and her parents and brother have been helping her recovery.

"Walking and making even smaller body movements is currently very painful and extremely challenging," she explained. "I’ve had my fair share of injuries in skating and I’m used to muscle and bone stuff, but this is different. It was explained to me that since I am young and in good shape, my muscles and nerves are really sensitive."

Shibutani said it has been difficult but she has her own way of dealing with the pain.

"It’s been tough to not feel discouraged and weak, but focusing on gratitude has really helped," she wrote. "This recovery will take time and I’m still waiting on news, but I’m determined to come back stronger."