Scott Hamilton, the 1992 winter figure skating Olympian and testicular cancer survivor since 1997, didn’t skate through life. At a 2012 Voice of Hope cancer summit in Missouri he recalled having a roller coaster life -- success often followed by heartbreak.
As a boy, Scott was small for his age and did not grow like other teen boys. During this time, he started ice skating and became physically stronger. Determined to be good at the sport, he practiced and worked his way up through the junior championships. Then, during his senior year in high school, his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. And a year after her diagnosis she passed away.
"She always found the positive in everything,” he said at the 2012 Voices of Hope cancer summit. “Something good, something horrible,” Hamilton said. “That was my pattern.” But Scott did not let that defeat him. Learning from his mom, he resolved “to never be less than my mother expected me to be.”
Ice skating compelled him forward. He was the flag bearer at the 1980 Olympics and men's winner at the 1981 World Figure Skating Championships. Even after his dad had a massive stroke during one of his competitions, he managed to speed forward and earn a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo.
After, Hamilton became a part of many touring ice skating shows. It was during one of the tours that he learned he had testicular cancer. A cancer that is most commonly diagnosed in men ages 15-34 and is very curable. The most notable symptoms are a lump on the testicles, swelling in the groin and a dull pain on the lower back.
Scott said he told his doctors, “I can’t have cancer. I’m booked. I don’t have time for cancer.”
Making positivity his mantra, Scott faced his cancer with grace, humor, self-deprecation and humility. He triumphed over his cancer in 1997, but was then diagnosed with a benign brain tumor on his pituitary gland in 2004.
He details these up and downs in his book The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (Even When You Have Every Reason to be Miserable).
In the book, Scott shares stories from his international career and personal life to describe the eight secrets that have helped him “clear the ice,” get back up, and “smile like Kristi Yamaguchi.”
But despite it all Scott now says, “I had it backwards. Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. It just took me awhile to figure that out.”
So where has the cancer journey guided Scott?
“Each of these life experiences has put me in touch with something else. I used to think cancer only happens to other people. It can't happen to me, and then oops, it did. And I think now what? I'm glad to be alive; I'm I glad that I was able to get back to work.”
Lesson learned: Make your losses your wins.
Your cancer diagnosis may smother you with fear, but it will be replaced with a sense of power and determination - much like an Olympian. Your cancer care team, like the one at Community Health Network, will make sure of it.
“You have a choice. Turn it around. Embrace the day.” – Scott Hamilton
Watch for Scott Hamilton’s commentary and perspective as part of the NBC Sports Olympic coverage. To learn more about Scott’s cancer awareness outreach, follow his CARE Initiative and the 4th Angel Program.
Photo credit: http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2010/02/us-gold-in-figure-skating-a-special-britannica-feature/