What do an Olympic Gold Medal winning ice skater, a Grammy award winning musician, a 4 star general and the Queen to the King of Heavy Metal all have in common?
These are all people we know who beat the odds and survived cancer and not just recently either. They have each been in remission for a minimum of seven years. By medical standards, any one in remission lasting longer than five years is considered to remain in remission permanently (AKA, cured). It also just so happens that the first initials of their last names spell out: HOPE.
Here are their stories:
Scott Hamilton beat testicular cancer in 1997.
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” Scott Hamilton made worldwide headlines when he spoke these words in 1997. Such a powerful personal philosophy explains how he had achieved the rank of top male figure skater in the world by the early ’80s, despite some daunting early obstacles, but when Hamilton spoke his famous words about the importance of attitude, he wasn’t reflecting on his success as a skater. He was talking about overcoming another, even more serious obstacle: stage III testicular cancer. Before he revealed his diagnosis in 1997, the public knew him as the underdog who nearly gave up competitive ice skating at the age of 17 when he couldn’t afford to continue. An anonymous couple sponsored him and he went on to win several championships which led to the ultimate win of the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. I remember watching him with my mom and gasping when he would perform his famous back flip, flying weightlessly in mid air. It was so breathtaking~ You know that show “Stars on Ice”? Yup, that was his baby. To learn more of his story, check out this article: Scott Hamilton: A Champion Who CARES.
Sharon Osbourne beat stage colon cancer in 2003.
You can’t throw a stone around Google without finding something on Sharon or her famous “King of Metal” husband Ozzy. I remember him from the crazy story back in the day about him biting a bat’s (or what it a bird?) head off during a concert. I’m not a big follower of reality shows, so I missed her initial cancer story when she was going through it. When I found out she was a stage III colon cancer survivor, I read her story and I felt a kinship to her that is probably not so far from how a stalker feels about their target. That sounds bad as I’m typing it, but you know what I mean. She is brave, bad mouthed and a colon cancer survivor like me…what’s not to like? ;) At one interview she was asked “What advice do you have for newly diagnosed cancer survivors?” To which she answered “Don’t be afraid, and it’s essential to keep a strong, positive state of mind.” Peas in a pod I tell ya and she is top of my list of celebs I’d like to spend a happy hour with. There are dozens of stories out there on her cancer survival, including those that talk about her controversial decision to remove her breasts after taking a genetic predisposition test. Here’s a pretty good one with great pics from the UK’s Daily Mail.
General Colin Powell beat prostate cancer in 2003.
I knew he was tough, but didn’t know just how tough until I started researching famous cancer survivors how last name started with a P when I found his story. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, also a retired four-star general in the United States Army, underwent surgery to remove a cancerous prostate gland in 2003 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He follows several other famous men who have fought prostate cancer and won, including; Roger Moore, Arnold Palmer, Nelson Mandela and Robert De Niro, former Yankees coach Joe Torre and Harry Belafonte, to name a few. He posted this message to fans on Facebook: “Today was my 73rd birthday and the most valuable gift I received was all the well-wishes from so many of you. Thank you. As one of you noted, I am a prostate cancer survivor and a spokesman for prevention. Men should regular exams. Regular exams allowed me to deal with this problem early (stage I) and make a full recovery.” Here’s a good article on him and 13 other famous men who battled prostate cancer on www.everydayhealth.com.
Melissa Etheridge beat breast cancer in 2005.
Having lost an aunt and a grandmother to breast cancer, and her father to liver cancer, Melissa is no stranger to cancer, but it was still a shock for her when she found the lump and was diagnosed in 2005 with stage II breast cancer. Her story is hard for me at times because as a musician I understand the fear that led to her choosing to cut her treatment short by a cycle or two. She was afraid the neuropathy (a common chemo side effect where there is chill/tingle in your finger tips) would become permanent and interfere with her career as a guitarist. It also meant she’d miss out on an opportunity to perform a tribute to one of her idols at the up coming Grammy awards. My neuropathy did take months to clear up, but it did eventually, so my initial reaction when I read that was “WTF?? A career isn’t worth jack if you’re dead”, but then I read on and found that it has become permanent in some cases and she was in an early enough stage that further chemo was considered insurance against “a 2% chance of it returning”. Tough choice and one that only the person with the cancer can make for themselves. There’s a good story covering her experience in Shape Magazine. I think there’s one correction needed though and that’s that she went through 5 “cycles” of chemo, not 5 “rounds”. I went through 3 rounds at stage IV and that’s considered a lot. I don’t know if anyone has gone through 5 rounds, but 5 cycles takes guts and stamina and she has shown she is full of both~
That does bring up something that doesn’t get discussed much and I think it’s something good to know ahead of time. What is the difference between a “cycle” and a “round” of chemo? A cycle is one chemo treatment. A round is a series of treatments. For me, a cycle meant 3 days of continuous chemo dripping into me, followed by a week’s break. That continued on for 6 cycles, so 12 weeks/3months. Those 6 cycles equaled 1 round. Then I got to take a 3 month break to rest and recoup before beginning round 2, which started with the 7th cycle and so on. 3 rounds meant I went through 18 cycles of chemo. A round of chemo is a round of chemo. There are anywhere between 4-6 cycles in a round. Cancer Research UK gives a pretty good explanation of it. Why the hell is it important to know that? The more articles I read about famous people dealing with cancer, the more I realize that even the likes of Stone Phillips doesn’t quite understand it which means they can tend to over dramatize it. As they say, “Knowledge is power” and I’m making it one of my life’s top ambitions to make you all as powerful as can be against cancer and all the crap that goes with it.
These are just four people we know. The battle is being fought and won every day by thousands. There is no guarantee of beating any disease like this one, but the more we know, the better chances we have to fight our best fight and win. Never just assume, be too complacent or afraid to speak up, to ask questions and share knowledge. As dear and wise old Plato once said “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”
All the best~