Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Stuart Scott: Stay With Me

"Everyday I am reminded that our life’s journey is really about the people who touch us."
I wonder how many people think of the ESPN sportscaster and anchor, Stuart Scott, when they hear these words. They should, for he said them at the 2014 ESPY award ceremony.
Scott, the winner of the 2014 Jimmy Valvano Perseverance Award, died at the age of 49 from stomach cancer on Sunday, January 4. The other side of the pillow now feels that much cooler. And yet he leaves us with what I just referenced—his own words. And that is what I want to recognize in this tribute.

Long before he was federally prosecuted for doping, Lance Armstrong was a divisive character among sports fans, especially cycling enthusiasts. A seven-time winner of the Tour de France, he "earned" each title after battling testicular cancer. Those who came to his defense as an athlete and a person, would often quip that much to his credit: Armstrong beat cancer (truth be told, the man underwent chemotherapy for cancer that spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen).

Let me be clear, battling cancer is a physical and mental challenge that I wish on no one. Any person who is diagnosed with this horrific disease carries a heavy cross; they must be literally scared for their lives. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and fortitude to undergo the necessary medical treatment, to carry on from one day to the next, to strive toward an alleged 5-year anniversary of good health and to hope and dream beyond that. That being said, 
I have never believed that someone "beats" cancer. Why? because I have a hard time believing that some "beat" it and others do not. You may point to the reality that some do, but I don't see some as "winners" and some as "losers." Who would dare enter that fight? And for those that do, what system determines who "wins" and who "loses." With cancer, no one comes out "on top." Each person finds a way to break through.
In 2010, a young woman who is part of my life's journey, died of lung cancer. Jill a non-smoker all of her short life was 22 years of age when the Stage IV disease spread to her abdomen, her ovaries and her breast. No one wanted to "beat" cancer more than Jill. She "fought" until the end. I can't look at her teammates, her parents and close friends and believe cancer beat Jill. It didn't. It's never had the last word in her life and it won't in the life of Stuart Scott.

Lance Armstrong had great doctors and medical resources. He is no different than Jill. They both engaged in the same fight. One is living to tell us about that—I'm glad he is. Jill however is not—I wish things were different.

At the ESPYs that night, Scott gained enough strength to leave us with an important message. He said, “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
I encourage you to find out for yourself how Jill beat cancer; it is chronicled in the award winning article "The Courage of Jill Costello." Jill lived to win a national championship, to be a great girlfriend, to help others learn more about lung cancer (it is one of the most underfunded types of cancer because of the stigma it bears. Why? because "Patients with lung cancer are assumed to have earned it, having inhaled toxins for years"). Jill did it with courage and with an optimistic spirit. No wonder she was an outstanding coxswain. 

When Scott approached the stage to accept his award, the music in the background was Sam Smith's "Stay with Me." I was struck by its poignancy. 

You have and you will because of your words—your message of perseverance and how you lived your life—a very public one until the end.  Thanks for helping me to laugh, to think and to cry. Stu. Jimmy V has welcomed you with open arms.

Photo Credits
Stuart Scott

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