The honorific “legendary” is sometimes overused when it comes to athletes, but U.S. Olympic Hall of Famer Scott Hamilton fits the bill. Winner of four consecutive U.S. figure skating championships and Gold Medalist at the 1984 Olympics, Hamilton entered millions of living rooms and dens as a longtime Olympic television broadcaster until last February.
Hamilton is also known for his courageous battle against cancer—first Stage 4 testicular cancer diagnosed in 1997, then since 2004 a series of three brain tumors, one of which he’s living with now.
A best-selling author, his latest book is Finish First: Winning Changes Everything. He founded the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation (Cancer Alliance for Research, Education and Survivorship) to raise funds for cancer research. And he founded the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy near his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.
Hamilton will bring his message of living strong with cancer to the 10th annual Tidewell Hospice Signature Luncheon Friday, Feb. 8 at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Ticket information can be found here.
What do you plan to talk about in Sarasota?
“Dealing with the loss of my mother [who died of breast cancer], what that meant to me, how hospice is so important. And I’ll be talking quite a bit about what I’ve learned from what I call my unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illnesses.”
The New York Times wrote an article about you last February in which you talked about being replaced as an analyst at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang by Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. I was struck by your good cheer and lack of bitterness.
“I was upset for a minute or two, then I remembered the big picture. This job, this opportunity is truly an extraordinary gift that isn’t given to many people; it was Dick Button and then it was me. It was an invitation to a really wonderful party. I tell my kids all the time, taking the high road is something you never regret, ever.”
When you were first diagnosed with cancer, did you ever experience fear?
“Oh, yes. I’d seen my mother suffer. The fear was extraordinary, beyond description. Then in five seconds something shifts, it flips, it goes from this terrifying situation to this thing where you’re more alive than you’ve ever been, ever. When I was diagnosed, I called it the awakening—you find out what you’re capable of doing. The fight in you awakens, you’re ready to do battle, anything you can do to fight this horrible entity.
“I would never wish cancer on anyone, but without that diagnosis you don’t know how powerful you are. Nothing in this life I value would exist if I hadn’t had cancer.”
How did you change your life?
“Honestly, it started the day I was diagnosed. I heard a voice [inside me] saying, ‘get strong.’ I didn’t know what that meant—strong physically, mentally, spiritually? I decided it meant all of it. I like being in better shape, I like eating better, I like my faith journey, I like being as strong as I can be.
“Everything is as difficult as you make it. You have to go in with an open hand and not a clenched fist. Let’s do that; let’s be the open hand. Nobody owes us anything; we are there to receive and do good things. We’re going to do the best we can in all situations.”
Do you still have a brain tumor?
“I do. I just had it checked out last week. It grows and shrinks. The last scan showed it went back to shrinking.”