Through his social media channels on Twitter and Facebook, ESPN’s legendary broadcaster Dick Vitale has been chronicling his battle with cancer for the past several months. He shares with Sportico why he has chosen to take people along with him on his journey—and his crusade to end pediatric cancer.
People often ask me why I have been so transparent in my battle in fighting cancer. My journey has educated me BIG TIME! It has taught me lessons that I never knew existed in life. Of course, we all hear about people battling cancer, but I had no idea what it actually involved. It is overwhelming—a complex journey filled with lots of tears. It impacts you mentally and emotionally.
I am a people person, so I felt by letting the public into this world I could share a greater appreciation and understanding for what this terrible disease can do and what it takes to fight it. Because what it takes is SUPPORT, baby: from family—I have the greatest support system of all with my loving family; from friends; from fans; and of course from the medical professionals.
I’m so lucky to have such great medical care—health-care professionals who have been supportive and willing to allow me to share pictures and videos from inside their workspaces to help better illustrate the cancer battle. I am blessed.
But this isn’t about me, man. The reason I’m sharing my journey—seven months of highs and the lows—is to raise dollars! Money to help kids who are battling cancer so that no young person has to endure the associated complications cancer can create.
The journey is not just about chemotherapy or radiation. It’s about all the additional weekly things that need to be done: the bloodwork, the anticipation of blood count results, scans and more bloodwork. It’s not easy, I can tell you that.
My battle actually began with bile duct blockage, then it went to melanoma on my nose, which involved some special cosmetic treatments. Then it went to lymphoma, and ultimately I lost my voice in an unrelated inflammation to my vocal cord.
At that point, I was feeling hopeless. I love to talk! It’s what I’ve done my whole life. And then, for 12 weeks, I could not speak. At all. I felt trapped. Though I jokingly said to my wife Lorraine, the absolute MVP of my life, “You should feel free for the first time in decades!”
For three months (!) I had to write down everything I wanted to say, as I rested my voice and recovered from surgery by Dr. Steven Zeitels, the renowned throat specialist.
I just felt that at my age, 82, it’s so important to help others, to be able to inspire others, to let people out there know who aren’t directly dealing with cancer. But any person’s life can change in a flash; the phone can ring, and someone on the other end can say a test came back that showed there was some type of cancer. It rocks your world.
One thing you must know is that I’m not looking for sympathy. I simply want to help kids. I’m obsessed with it. And sharing this grueling process has been a good way for me to work through many of the emotions and thoughts that cancer patients deal with.
I can’t even imagine when children and their families have to go through the things that I now know even more personally about as a cancer patient. That’s why I’m so committed to fighting pediatric cancer through the V Foundation. My guy, Jimmy Valvano, said it best, about people battling the dreaded disease: “Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up.”
There is nothing worse than a child going through chemo or radiation and then watching the parents of that child as they go through it. It’s heartbreaking. Kids should be out playing, not doing chemo. That is really the impetus for my sharing my journey. I’m trying to turn my negative situation into a positive. I’m so very lucky that my cancer is in remission. I’m fully aware that there are so many people who aren’t as lucky.
So I’m asking—no, I’m begging—for your help. I will beg and plead until my last breath. You can go to DickVitale.com and donate. That is why I’m taking you inside my hospital rooms. Like all of you, I want to help others. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.