Scott Hamilton is no stranger to adversity. The figure skater was on top of the world in 1984 when he won the Gold Medal at the Sarajevo Olympics, and in the the years following, he became a household name in the United States for incredible athleticism, including his trademark backflip.
But in 1997, Hamilton was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was terrified that his skating career, and his life, was over. In this dark moment, Hamilton found inspiration from his mother, who had refused to let chemo get her down, and he laughed his way to recovery.
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Then in 2004, the disease came back, this time in the form of a brain tumor that Hamilton had been born with but never showed any symptoms. While many people might just give up or feel sorry for themselves, Hamilton refused to change his approach.
“I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illness,” Hamilton joked to People, in an interview after learning of his illness. His first response to the news was “that’s not fair. Alright, I’ve had cancer—I get a pass for a while.” When Hamilton shared the news with his wife, Tracie, she knew exactly what to do. “She just grabbed both of my hands, and she started to pray,” he told People.
For Hamilton, that simple gesture made all the difference. Through the power of laughter, which he learned from his mom’s habit of joking as she underwent chemotherapy, his positive attitude toward life, and his faith in God, Hamilton made an incredible recovery. In 2010, the disease came back, and he fought it off again.
Hamilton considered himself incredibly lucky to have survived cancer three times, but in 2016, his brain cancer “decided that it wanted an encore,” as he said to People. When Hamilton’s son Aidan, who was 12 at the time, asked him if his tumor had returned, he calmly said, “Yes, it has. Here we go again.”
The former champion wanted to teach his son the same lesson he had learned throughout his career and his life. As he told People in 2016, “You know, the first thing I teach skaters at my skating academy is how to get up, because we’re going to fall.”
Hamilton uses the example of 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, who fell during her routine but managed to get up and smile and finish like the champion she was. As he said to People, “the more times you get up, the stronger you are to face the next thing, which will happen because that’s life.”
So Hamilton set about beating cancer a fourth time. His method? “Eliminating all the unhealthy stuff,” especially sugar, “draw[ing] as close to the Lord as possible,” and drinking lots of water along with taking supplements, as he told People.
The result was nothing short of a miracle. When he went back to the doctors to get the tumor looked at, not only had it stopped growing, it had actually shrunk. “When something like this happens, it’s unbelievable,” Hamilton said. After asking the brain surgeon what he attributed the recovery to, the doctor’s answer was simple.
“He just smiled and looked at me and goes, ‘God.’ That’s it.”
Hamilton hopes to inspire those struggling with challenges of any kind to laugh at them, get up when they fall down, and have faith. It’s a miracle cure that’s saved his life several times.
Olympic skating gold medalist Scott Hamilton opens up about life after testicular cancer and three brain tumors. Watch our full series Scott Hamilton Today on People EW Network: https://pen.live/2qO6wPS
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