This Sunday, we shine our Architect of Change of the Week spotlight on Scott Hamilton, the Olympic figure skater, husband and father of four. It would be hard to find two more inspirational people on the planet than Scott and his wife, Tracie. They are devoted to each other, to their family, to curing cancer, and to saving Haiti. Scott was recently diagnosed with his third brain tumor, yet despite this news, he and Tracie remain eternally optimistic. We recently spoke with him to learn more.
1) How do you remain optimistic in the face of your recent diagnosis?
SH: When I look back on the history of this tumor, I realize that every good thing in my life is rooted in this tumor. I was born with it, but when I was suffering illness as a 4-year-old, the necessary technology didn’t exist to diagnose it. Through a strange set of circumstances I started skating, and when I did, all of my symptoms disappeared. Years later, I was diagnosed with cancer, and without that bout of cancer, I never would have met my wife Tracie. In 2004, two years into our marriage and the father of my first son, the brain tumor started doing its mischief and was finally diagnosed. It was successfully treated with Gamma Knife Radiation. It was during that time I dedicate my life to Jesus Christ and we were blessed with another son Maxx. Then in 2010 I started feeling symptomatic again, the tumor was once again diagnosed, and this time surgically removed. What happened next was something I never could have anticipated. Tracie and I adopted two children from Haiti, Jean Paul and Evelyne. With each and every health setback, something wonderful came next. Now it’s 2016 and it’s back again. I’m so excited to see what’s next!
SH: Tracie is quite simply the most compassionate person I have ever known. I met her a couple of years after I had survived cancer and knew when I met her that I was healed and ready to start life anew. We went out on our first date and have been together ever since. She has taught me so much about life, family and faith. She’s strong, kind, funny, empathetic, compassionate, a great friend, a devoted mother, and I cannot imagine spending a day on this earth without her. Her dedication and love for her family and also for the people of Haiti is inspiring.
3) In addition to the support you provide each other, you and Tracie also pour yourselves into incredible causes. You have used your health journey as an inspiration for the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation, which pushes for cancer research, education, and survivorship. You both have also lent incredible support to charities in Haiti and adopted two of your children from the country. Why is it so important to you both to give back, and what impact do you hope your efforts will have?
When I lost my mother to cancer, my life changed forever. I had to do whatever I could to use whatever talents I had to raise money for research. Twenty years later, almost to the day, I was diagnosed with cancer. What I learned in that journey was everything I thought about cancer was wrong. There was a lot of work to do. Beyond raising money for research, patients needed to be armed with knowledge to be better equipped for battle. We created user-friendly information for people facing chemotherapy through our ChemoCare.com website. We created support for patients with our 4th Angel Mentoring service. When a patient is paired with a mentor, they are paired with someone who has survived what they are about to endure. Both programs are thriving along with our new direction in research. Our goal is to elevate treatment options like immunotherapy and proton therapy that treat the cancer and spare the patient.
In 2010, a massive earthquake took the lives of over 220,000 people and injured over 300,000. Tracie’s heart was shattered. She couldn’t look away and knew that she HAD to get there and help these devastated people. She has been to Haiti 25 times in various ways and now serves as the Nashville Ambassador for JPHRO, Sean Penn’s Haitian Relief Organization and is also on the board of former prime minister Laurent Lamothe’s foundation designed to serve Haitian people in a direct, intimate way.
Our Haitian children remind us daily of Haiti’s incredible culture and the beauty of their spirit.
4) So many people around the world admire you for your accomplishments and your positive attitude. Who are the role models that inspire you?
I travel a lot and meet people from all over the world. People inspire me. I love meeting people. But there are those that I see take challenges and find ways of uniquely addressing them. One that comes to mind is a man named Bob Goff who wrote the NY Time bestselling book called “Love Does”. The way he lives, loves and serves others is like nothing I have ever witnessed. Another person that inspires me every day is Tim Shriver, the Chairman of Special Olympics. Tim has taken the helm of Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s organization that created a movement to change the world through the example of how people with Intellectual Disability can rise above all expectation. He leads by example and is a master communicator. Learn more about these two amazing men and you will see the way God wants us to live our lives.
5) You mentioned to me that you like to surround yourself with other upbeat, positive people. Why do you think that is so important and what effect do you think it has on your overall well-being?
I love people! I think I have mentioned that already at least once. I have faced more than a challenge or two. When dealing with less than positive situations, it is really important to surround yourself with joyful people. Friends that look for the good in everything and everyone. We all find ways of falling down. Failing. The most important thing you can do when faced with difficult situations is to understand that there is a blessing in everything. If I can say that, anyone can. We decide how we deal with challenges. And when we decide to look for good during tough times, we will usually find it. I had a t-shirt made after my crazy summer dealing with my brain tumor in 2010. It simply says “This Too Shall Pass”.
Visit the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation website to learn more about how you can support Scott’s cause to help cure cancer. And on November 20, support the foundation’s special event in Nashville, “An Evening with Scott Hamilton & Friends.”
This Q&A first appeared in Maria’s Sunday Paper newsletter. Sign up now to receive her reflection on the week that was, and inspiration for the week ahead.