Scott Hamilton Celebrates Beating Cancer as He Readies for 25th Anniversary of Stars on Ice Tour

Filed under: Celeb News & Interviews

Scott Hamilton cancer

Scott Hamilton has turned his own battle with cancer into a fight to help others. Credit: Paul Morigi, Getty Images for Edge Health

As a four-time world champion figure skater and Olympic gold medalist, Scott Hamilton has bested many competitors over the years. But he's faced his share of battles off the ice, as well.

At the age of 2, Hamilton, now 52, developed an illness that impacted his growth.

In 1997, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and, in 2004, with a benign brain tumor. Last year, he underwent brain surgery to prevent the tumor from returning.

But despite the many years Hamilton has spent in and out of hospitals, the father of Aidan, 7, and Maxx, 3, with wife Tracie Robinson, never lets a setback get him down.

Today, Hamilton not only celebrates life, but also the 25th anniversary of the Smucker's Stars On Ice Tour, a tour he created in 1986. A TV special kicking off the tour is set to air on NBC Jan. 22, with its first leg starting in San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 18.

ParentDish caught up with Hamilton and learned why he's one fighter you don't want to mess with. An edited version of the conversation follows.

ParentDish: Congratulations on the 25th anniversary of Smucker's Stars On Ice.
Scott Hamilton: I know -- it happened in the blink of an eye. On one front, in seems like yesterday, and, on the other front, it feels like this was four versions (of myself) ago. It has been a real journey.

PD: When you created the show, did you ever think you would be toasting this moment?
SH: I thought when we first started if we made it to four years that would be great. Over the years we have continued to grow and even had some great talent such as Kristi Yamaguchi.

PD: Why did you decide to start Stars on Ice?
SH: I needed a job. (Laughs.) Seriously, it was the only reason.

PD: How has the tour changed over the years?
SH: Well, you have the economic downturn, changes within the skating world and, of course, the cast. I am thrilled to say we have the Olympic 2010 winner, Evan Lysacek, and Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen join this installment.

PD: You retired from skating in Stars On Ice back in 2001. Do you miss it?
SH: Yeah. I had the greatest job in the world. I got to be in front of a crowd doing what I loved, which was skating and being an entertainer. I had a great role and it was great moment in my life.

PD: Have you taught your kids how to skate?
SH: My oldest has been on the ice. My youngest pretends he can skate, but I think he is too young and I don't want to traumatize him by putting him in a situation he may not be ready for. I was 4 years old the first time I was on the ice and I remember falling backwards and hitting the back of my head. I even remember saying I would never skate again and then, five years later, I was back on the ice and then they couldn't get me off.

PD: What got you interested in ice skating?
SH: They had built an ice rink where I grew up in Bowling Green (Ohio). I was also very sick as a young child, yet, once I started skating, my health began to greatly improve and it managed to fix what was ailing me. The longer they kept me on the ice, the better my health got. By that time I was committed to the sport.

PD: So you are convinced finding your passion cured you?
SH: For whatever reason, it worked. The brain tumor I was diagnosed with in 2004, I was born with. All of the symptoms I had as a youngster were the same symptoms most people have who have a tumor. The technology we have today did not exist when I was a kid, so they could not diagnose it. The only time the tumor stopped doing his mischief was when I was skating.

PD: Fans know you for your incredible talents on the ice. But you have also been in the news a lot because of your battles with cancer.
SH: The brain tumor was benign, yet it was growing, and that required radiation. Then, this past June, I went to have it removed and there were some complications from the surgery. Because of that, I was in hospitals the rest of the summer. With the testicular cancer, I had to have chemotherapy and then a pretty major surgery.

PD: Did you ever think you would hear your name and the word cancer in the same sentence more than one time?
SH: Only as someone who has battled it as a non-patient. I say that because my mother died of breast cancer. She had an aggressive form of it. But to say I would be a patient and now a survivor, no. This disease rocks your world and, in my case, for the better.

PD: For the better?
SH: Cancer is not something you wish on anyone. But I walked away a stronger and more in-touch person and, for that, I am grateful. Physically, it is hard to endure. Emotionally, it takes a toll. But you find the strength to battle it and, spiritually, it awakens something you never knew existed.

PD: How did you overcome the fear of dealing with cancer?
SH: It is a product of experience. I watched my mother battle cancer and, despite all she had been through, she always found humor, displayed dignity and a positive attitude. Those elements she displayed made her my role model and helped me handle my fight, as well. My goal was to handle it as well as she did.

PD: How did you and your wife explain your sickness to your older son?
SH: We explained to him that there was something wrong with Daddy and we were going to fix it. Then, we told him, when Daddy comes home you will have to be a little quiet around the house, but then Daddy will be back to knock you guys over soon (laughs). We didn't get into the specifics, we just focused on the end game.

PD: Your attitude is so upbeat. How do you manage to laugh while fighting something so horrible and scary?
Oh, I was really scared when I went for surgery this past summer, and it was hard for me to laugh. I felt lousy. Every time I have a bout of a life threatening illness I have been able to see past it. But this one, I didn't see past it, and I was scared. However, I had to get past it so I can find the laughter again and I did.

PD: Did writing your book, "The Great Eight," help you deal with this awful ordeal?
SH: A little bit. After going through cancer and the brain tumor, I found I was better equipped to handle the challenges that life hands me. I wanted people to know, you are not alone and, when you read this book, there is a great pep talk in here to help you cope.

PD: Since cancer runs in the family, are you scared your children could be vulnerable to the disease?
SH: None of us are bulletproof. I never want my kids to get a bruise because I know that is life. The only thing I can do is be a good role model and be vigilant by getting them checked. I want to set a good example for my boys that being strong is the key.

PD: You also created the Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative. Tell me about that.
SH: When I was going through my cancer, I realized there were a lot of gaps in the cancer community and I wanted to fill those holes. I wanted to make sure that the things that didn't exist for me were there for other patients. One example was a mentorship. My idea is to put cancer patient with cancer survivor who had the same type of cancer you have and have that person be your coach and cheerleader.


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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.