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Testicular Cancer

A Chat with Scott Hamilton

 


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Scott Hamilton skates after testicular cancer

Gold Medal figure-skating champ Scott Hamilton became part of an ominous trend in March 1997, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. "I feel 100 percent confident," he said at the time, "that I can overcome this disease." With a great attitude, aggressive chemotherapy and surgery, Hamilton was back on the ice within months of his diagnosis. Here are excerpts from a recent chat on ABC News.

Ned Kelly from tnt1.santa-monica2.ca.da.uu.net at 3:41pm ET
How did you find out that you had the cancer? Routine check-up or symtoms?
Scott Hamilton at 3:42pm ET
Definitely symptoms. I thought that over the course of the year I was having an ulcer, due to my schedule and the demands of the tour. I thought that was normal. I couldn't stand up straight anymore. I was told to have it checked at the next city at the hospital. Dr. John Carrol found a mass in my abdomen and recommended that I take care of it immediately. So the next morning, I went to Cleveland hospital to take care of it, and they put me through some tests to diagnose what was going on.
Scott Brookes from [209.149.15.73], at 3:43pm ET
Hi. I am with M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando. We are developing a program to educate/increase awareness of testicular cancer among college-age men. One of the challenges is getting students to take the subject matter seriously and to change their behavior so they perform self-exams. Do you have any suggestions on encouraging participation with this age group? What has worked for you when speaking to diverse groups?
Scott Hamilton at 3:44pm ET
I basically talk in general terms to the media. That is the best way to get the word out. Self-examination is the easiest and best way to take care of this. To answer your question: online chats, interviews, and people like me being a survivor and feeling comfortable about talking about it are some of the best ways to get the message out.
Gari-Anne from [128.163.95.72] at 3:45pm ET
Most people who have cancer find the treatment debilitating. However, you seem to have gotten back on the ice quite quickly. What techniques or treatments did you use to recover so fast?
Scott Hamilton at 3:46pm ET
I love my job. I absolutely love what I do. Cancer controls your life, and I didn't want cancer to take me off the ice. I didn't want it to end the part of my life I love the most. Just by being in this competitive life, I think helped me. It is hard. I am not 100% yet, but I will be.
Shannon from kla-tencor.com at 3:49pm ET
Why do you (or what is the opinion of doctors you have consulted) think this form of cancer is becoming so much more prevalent in recent years? I think of men, like you, Lance Armstrong, who are in incredible shape and take care of their bodies, who are getting this disease. It's really baffling.
Scott Hamilton at 3:51pm ET
It's all about awareness. The more it is discussed, the more you feel like it's prevalent. I am not sure that it is more prevalent. It is more about awareness. I don't know what the statistics are, but I have heard that it is on the rise. I don't know why, but I am glad that people are talking about it. Again, the earlier you detect a problem, the better off you are. In any form of cancer — not just this kind.
Carol Box from ltcadmin.com at 3:55pm ET
How has your illness and recovery changed your priorities in your life?
Scott Hamilton at 3:56pm ET
It's hard to say, because some days all the cliches kick in. The air smells nicer, the sunset is more beautiful. Some days it is the same old stuff. One thing I am grateful for is the experience of enduring the process, so I can better relate to the people going through this process and I feel more human.
Ashley from resnet.pc.jmu.edu at 3:57pm ET
Scott, when you first got this disease, what was your initial reaction? Did you go through the typical stages of denial, anger, etc.? Were you at first willing to talk about this with everyone, or did you want to hide it? And, even now, do you ever look back and get scared? (All emotions I've been through with my fiance with TC). Did you ever really feel like you had cancer, or did you just see it as something you had to deal with and move on?
Scott Hamilton at 3:59pm ET
Shock and fear are the first two things that you feel. Then you feel a feeling of anxious desperation, of "now what." And then, when the diagnosis was complete, and I heard there was a treatment, it was non-stop humor. My goal is to find a way to laugh every single day. For that, I think, is the healthiest form of denial. Anger and bitterness are debilitating. Find a way to laugh everyday.
Meg from neuro.duke.edu at 3:59pm ET
You have always kept an amazing performance schedule, and you have (in my opinion) always given a phenomenal performance at each event you skate. I am impressed with your athleticism and showmanship. What are your plans for future performances, and will there be any interference with performances due to additional medical treatments?
Scott Hamilton at 4:01pm ET
As for the interference, the answer is no. I am doing my next cat-scan on my day off in Cleveland before the show. The timing was perfect. I am going to do the rest of the Stars on Ice tour and then I am shooting a TV special in May. And then I am going to teach my new ankle how to do things it has never done before. I am going to really work hard, a big physical push for next year. I feel healthier, more in control of my body and my mind, and I want to apply that to the touring years that are obviously close to the end.
Amy from vcela.com at 4:06pm ET
Scott: I am also a cancer survivor (diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer 11 years ago at the age of 27). I enjoyed hearing you speak at The March to Conquer Cancer in Washington. It was a wonderful event — very well planned. Are you going to be a part of it next year as well? Are you involved in the American Cancer Society at all?
Scott Hamilton at 4:07pm ET
I'll be at the march every year it takes place. I am working very hard for Cleveland Clinic's new Cancer Center. I will continue to be a part of all of this. Self-awareness is key.
Chris Brewer from hurlburt.af.mil at 4:14pm ET
You have had medical problems — athletic and otherwise — pretty much your whole life, right? How did having TC rate in that list?
Scott Hamilton at 4:15pm ET
Probably number one. The illness is one thing, the treatment is another. Both challenge you on every level. When I had my childhood illness, I was too young to understand anything about it. Now, as an adult, I am aware and that makes it all the more difficult. I guess a friend told me once, the key to a long and happy life is, at times, a very short-term memory. Out with the bad and hang on to the good.
Damon Farthing from [192.223.186.80], at 4:19pm ET Are you completely cured or is there a chance it will come back?
Scott Hamilton at 4:20pm ET
They say that once you have it in one testicle, you have a greater chance of being affected in the other. I never really think about it. I'm not worried. I feel like I am cured.
Dave from Pennsylvania from [204.171.31.118] at 4:20pm ET
Are you a spiritual person? Has this helped in your recovery?
Scott Hamilton at 4:22pm ET
Yes, I am a spiritual person. I have very strong beliefs. I have a true understanding that a positive atmosphere can help any challenge or any situation. I feel that most of my recovery has happened because of the people I have never met who include me in their prayers, sending along their best wishes.
jason1 from public.rwc.webtv.net at 4:22pm ET
Scott: How did the other skaters in the skating community react to your diagnosis and struggle with this disease?
Scott Hamilton at 4:24pm ET
I was really touched by the response. Not only from my touring family, but from the skating community at large. The fact that Michelle Kwan used my particular situation for her World Championships — that was very touching to me. I am grateful for the support. It came in all shapes and sizes and made a difference.
Erik Strand (age 25) from [207.122.253.62], at 4:25pm ET
Scott: I was in the midst of my treatments when your story appeared in People magazine. For what it's worth, you helped me feel like I wasn't alone in this and were a great inspiration. My question is whether or not you have encountered any side effects from the BEP chemo regimen. I understand that you had 4(?) cycles. Also, did you ever notice a mass or lump on the testicle prior to the abdominal pain? Any thoughts are appreciated since you have a lot of TC'ers "tuning in." BTW, my wife thinks you're great. Thanks!
Scott Hamilton at 4:27pm ET
Eric: I had my bleomycin every Friday. I hated bleo Fridays. That particular drug affects your lungs and I still feel my stamina isn't what it was. But it is getting better. A lot of the other chemo affects your skin, and I have streaks of tan skin and that reminds me of everything. I also have a scar — but it's like a badge of honor. There is always going to be something, some challenge. It's important not to shy away from it. To answer the second part of your question: The affected testicle was smaller then the other one. I thought that was just me — I had all of these checkups, and nothing was ever thought of in that way. It wasn't until I couldn't stand up straight, that I finally found out something was wrong. I waited too long.
Moderator at 4:27pm ET
Any final thoughts, Scott?
Scott Hamilton at 4:29pm ET
For people with testicular cancer that are going through their treatments and challenges, feel fortunate that there is a treatment. Understand that it will be a hard episode in your life. Understand that the treatment will try to defeat you and damage your spirit. But you can fight back and win.

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