I did not plan to write today. My list of things to do to get ready for work and school tomorrow is long. But news that Stuart Scott died this morning made that list fade away. All of it can wait. What I have to say about what Stuart Scott meant to me cannot.
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I did not grow up watching Stuart Scott behind the ESPN sports desk. Ironically, I played too many sports growing up to watch ESPN or any other channel. Still, Stuart Scott was a familiar face with a familiar voice. But if I had time to watch anything, I watched Oprah, so I never really got to know Stuart Scott.
Until 2014. Almost two years after I discovered my own cancer. Months after Scott's second cancer recurrence.
I fell in love with Stuart Scott after his ESPY Award speech. I watched that speech countless times, both the day after he delivered it (July 2014) and in the months after. That speech meant more to me than I can express. Because Scott articulated a clarity for which I had been desperate.
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. So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight then lay down and rest and let someone else fight for you.
I found these words on the day I learned that another friend of mine had had a recurrence of her breast cancer. I found these words when I needed them most. When I needed to understand more about words we all toss around without much thought. Words like Win. Lose. Live. Fight. Rest.
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I loved Stuart Scott's speech so much that I put a piece of it on the t-shirts that our whole team wore for the Jimmy Fund Walk. And when I had to lie down on a building stoop 25 miles into that walk, near faint and exhausted like never before, I stared up at the sky and thought about the quote on my back. That quote didn't pick me up (I was far too physically drained for that). But it did something far more important. It brought me peace. It made me understand that I wasn't a failure, but rather, someone who just needed to rest. It reminded me that the real gift, the real achievement, was that others were crossing the finish line when I couldn't.
Stuart Scott did not teach me about sports. He was not a sportscaster to me. He was a regular person who got cancer like I did. A father, a fighter, a survivor. He was eloquent and brave and resilient. He was smart and thoughtful. And in that ESPY speech, he used his experience with cancer and his reflections about it in ways that reached me and made my life, however long, better.
Obviously I believe in the power of words. I believe in the power of writing and reading and listening and sharing our experiences. I believe that people can change us even when we don't know them well. Stuart Scott changed me.
He changed me because he found the strength to stand up and deliver a speech days after being released from the hospital with liver complications, kidney failure, and having undergone four surgeries in seven days. Cynics may say that there was something in it for him to get up there and receive that award. Fame and some fortune. Heck, maybe he even paid someone to write that speech. I don't care. Because I have spent a week in the hospital, not with the severity of Scott's complications, but with complications nonetheless. And I am absolutely certain that Stuart Scott's body was begging for him to rest that summer night. But he stood up and spoke anyways. Maybe not to me. But, to me.
I don't know a lot about Stuart Scott and I would never pretend otherwise. I do know, however, that the news of his death made me cry. My first tears of 2015. Because in 2014, when I met him, Stuart Scott gave me a gift. He made me disagree with every one of those obituaries that steal my breath and send a rush of indescribable fear through my body. He lost his long battle with cancer.
No, he didn't.