Russ Quinn getting back to ‘normal’

CNMI beach volleyball national player and coach Russ Quinn.

In this altered photo, former CNMI beach volleyball national player and coach Russ Quinn lets his T-shirt say what he feels about cancer. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Former CNMI national volleyball player and overall good guy Russ Quinn credits his faith and his participation in endurance races in giving him a fighting chance in his battle against blood cancer.

Quinn, who represented the Commonwealth in the South Pacific Games in Guam in 1999 and Suva, Fiji in 2003, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last year and said like anyone else he was initially shocked after learning he had cancer.

“No one wants to hear they have the ‘C’ word. It is a scary word that usually leads to major life changes. It was no different for me. When I was first diagnosed, I had been feeling ‘off’ for a couple of months. The cancer I have is a rare blood cancer, so it’s harder to detect. When I found out what I had, I looked it up on the Internet and read the prognosis and outcomes for this cancer”

The 56-year-old San Diego, California native and his wife, Kanae, found out through research that the life expectancy of those afflicted with multiple myeloma was about five years. After a good cry, he picked himself up and decided they were going to beat it.

“My wife, Kanae, and I packed up our bags and went to Hawaii to start the journey of getting back to ‘normal.’ I have been incredibly blessed by amazing doctors and nurses that have provided incredible care. Because of them, I am having much better outlook for my future. Modern medicine is amazing!” said Quinn.

He also credits his improving diagnosis in knocking out the Big C to his faith in the Bigger G—God.

“I think one of the biggest things that has kept me going is my faith. God has opened many doors for me, he has surrounded me with so many loving people that have helped me when I was feeling down.”

Quinn also believes that his years participating in endurance sports helped him immensely in not giving up and continue his battle against multiple myeloma.

“In those long races (Tagaman Triathlon, Hell of the Marianas, XTERRA, and adventure racing), you have to persevere through difficult times. You have to keep moving forward even if you aren’t feeling your best. Just knowing that if I kept pushing myself, there would be better times ahead. I have always believed that staying positive and taking one step at a time would get me through most difficult situations,” he said.

Aside from representing the CNMI as an athlete in the South Pacific Games, Quinn also served as coach for the CNMI National Beach Volleyball Team in the 2007 SPG in Samoa and the University Games in Russia 2017.

“I have always loved being active. Saipan’s weather provides an excellent environment for year-round sports. I enjoy mountain biking, scuba diving, golf, and barbecuing. I also enjoy traveling and snowboarding in Japan.”

Curiously, it’s not his experience in multiple quadrennial events that is the highlight of his athletic career on the islands. Quinn said what tops the cake is when he took part in the 2010 Guam Extreme Adventure Race with close friends Tyce Mister, Yosh Gaboldon, and Mieko Carey.

“There have been so many amazing sports moments in my life, it is hard to single out just one. If I had to narrow it down, it would be the Guam Extreme Adventure Race in 2010, a 24-hour race. It was the GEAR’s 10th and final year. The race started at 3am and we pushed ourselves for 18 hours and won the race. It was very emotional because no other team was able to complete the race. We were racing against military teams, younger teams, more experienced teams, yet our teamwork and training won the day,” he proudly said.

Quinn has called the CNMI home for the past 30 years and already considers himself an islander.

“It truly is my home. My goal through this whole process has been to get well enough to come home. I miss the people that have become my family abroad. I miss the beautiful sunsets. I miss the amazing people I work with at Marianas Eye Institute. I miss the routine of the life I’ve enjoyed for so long. Saipan is a special place and I look forward to the day I can return,” he said.

Both he and Kanae are currently in Mission Viejo, California as he continues to recuperate.

Quinn also gave kudos to his wife for helping him through his medical journey the past year.

“There’s no one I’d rather be with in this foxhole with for this fight than my amazing wife Kanae. She has put her whole life on hold to be by my side and she’s done it with such a positive attitude and love. I can’t imagine doing this journey without her by my side.”

Quinn can’t wait to come home and extended his gratitude to friends who have kept him and Kanae in their thoughts.

“Thank you for all your messages of encouragement, for your love, for remembering me in your prayers. You have no idea how much that means to me. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘I’ll be back!’”

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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