Scott Hamilton is known for winning the gold medal in figure skating at the 1984 Winter Olympics. But getting to that point? Well, that took a lot of stumbles and falls. In fact, Scott estimates that he has fallen down on the ice a minimum of 41,600 times. The life lesson he took from those falls is that you always have to get up again if you want to succeed. While that attitude was important in his skating career, it became more vital during his battles with cancer and three brain tumors. In order to help others adopt a spirit of optimism in the face of hardship, and encourage a sense of faith in their lives, Scott has created a website and podcast called Live Your Days. We discussed it recently on Christopher Closeup.
As a child, Scott suffered from low self-esteem because he was shorter than all his classmates; he endured numerous hospital stays due to a mystery illness that left him feeling sick much of the time; and he was bullied because he was adopted. After four years of trying to determine his illness, one doctor told Scott's parents, "We can't figure this thing out, but I can give you some solid advice: go home and live a normal life."
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were exhausted from the nonstop caretaking, so they took the advice of their family physician, who recommended they send Scott to ice skating lessons at a new facility nearby. Not only did it give the couple some necessary downtime, it exposed Scott to a talent he didn't know he had. Scott said, "I realized that I could skate as well as the best athletes in my grade. For the first time, I had self-esteem, this incredible sense of identity and power. . . . My health started to improve miraculously, and I was able to go on a huge adventure with my skating."
Scott’s mother was his greatest champion throughout his childhood and teen years. She also served as a model of optimism after she was diagnosed with cancer when Scott was a sophomore in high school. He recalled her breaking the news to the family and trying to put a positive spin on everything, like saying that chemo was allowing her to lose the weight she wanted.
Scott recalled, "She fought [cancer] for two years and then succumbed. [I asked], how do I live without her? It just hit me in the face. . . . [But] I was able to mourn her in the best way possible: by trying to become the person that she always thought I could be. It was 43 years ago that I lost her, and every single day, I think about her." And Scott looked to his mother for inspiration when he was fighting cancer himself.
He hopes that the children's book he wrote, Fritzy Finds a Hat, helps kids in similar situations focus on better days because the story was inspired by his experience with his mom. Fritzy is a boy whose mother is undergoing chemo and needs a hat to wear after she loses her hair. He embarks on a quest to find her the perfect one to make her feel better. The simple story presents "the idea that children have an identity in the family structure, doing something profound to help their parents when they're facing a struggle."
Though Scott relies on his Christian faith in good times and bad, that wasn't always the case. That part of his story next time.
This essay is a recent "Light One Candle" column written by Tony
Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers; it is one of a
series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current