ESPN anchor Stuart Scott passed away last night at just 49 years old after his 7-plus year battle with appendix cancer. Mostly Scott’s passing makes me feel for his daughters, his family, his friends, and his colleagues. This is their time to reflect and remember him. However, I also think that his public presence makes it seem like we all knew him, and I think he taught us all something by how he handled his illness.
I didn’t know Stuart Scott. But I feel a special kinship with him because the broad outlines of his story and mine are remarkably similar. We were both diagnosed with appendix cancer in November 2007 – I went to the ER on the Friday after Thanksgiving and he had an emergency appendectomy the following Monday (while I was still in the hospital being diagnosed). We both had two recurrences – mine in 2009 and 2010, and his in 2011 and 2013, with multiple major surgeries as our rewards. We both went to work while our bodies absorbed incredible amounts of energy-depriving chemotherapy. We both fought with everything we had to live for our kids. So I didn’t know Stuart Scott, but I know something about what he went through in fighting appendix cancer.
Despite living in the public eye, Scott was not all that public about the details of his cancer battle. However, what he did show us was inspiring. Scott allowed us to see him practicing mixed martial arts after major surgeries and while on chemo. He stated in interviews that he didn’t want to know the stage or the prognosis because he was going to go on living anyway. He participated in Livestrong, and recorded at least one testimonial where he really seemed to let his guard down and identify himself as a patient, a cancer survivor who leaned on his support network and the inspiration of other patients. I’ve watched a number of his friends and colleagues today remembering him, and the common denominator is a positive energy that impacted them all. And his speech when presented the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2014 ESPY’s, which will be quoted not just today but for a long time to come, gave us his mantra from which that all makes sense: “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”
I know that some people within the appendix cancer community are disappointed that Stuart Scott did not take a more active role advocating for appendix cancer while he was alive. However, I for one won’t criticize Scott (or anyone, for that matter) for how he handled his journey as a cancer patient. I am convinced that Scott handled his fight with cancer the best way he knew how. He inspired a lot of people along the way, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
In the end, cancer was unfair to Stuart Scott like so many other appendix cancer patients I’ve met over the past 7 years. But he didn’t let it stop him from living. As I reflect on how Scott’s path and mine have diverged since 2007, I am reminded that we have a lot of work to do so that appendix cancer patients can all live by Scott’s mantra for a long, long time. Rest in peace, Stuart.
PMP Research Foundation