WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — With a full heart and enduring spirit, through a 7-year bout with a rare form of cancer, Stuart Scott of ESPN accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award during Wednesday evening’s ESPYS awards ceremony.
His speech, which would bring the strongest man to his knees, began after footage ran from a 5-minute video segment chronicling how Scott has chosen to live his life, with cancer but not beaten by it, while inspiring others to do the same.
As Scott explained, he almost didn’t make it to the stage, or to the ceremony, after, over the previous seven days, having undergone four surgeries, stemming from liver complications, kidney failure and other setbacks.
“I’ve presented this award before. I mean, I’ve watched in awe as Kay Yow and Eric LeGrand and all these other great people graced this stage,” Scott said. “And although intellectually, I get it – I’m a public figure, I have a public job, I’m battling cancer, hopefully I’m inspiring – at my gut level, I really didn’t think that I belonged with those great people.”
“But I listened to what Jim Valvano said 21 years ago,” he continued. “The most poignant seven words ever uttered in any speech, anywhere: ‘Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.’ Those great people didn’t. Coach Valvano didn’t.
“So to be honored with this, I now have a responsibility to also not ever give up. I’m not special. I just listened to what the man said. I listened to all that he said. Everything that he asked of us, and that’s to build The V Foundation. And, let me tell you, man. It works. I’m talking tangible benefits.”
“I also realized something else recently,” Scott said. “You heard me kind of allude to it in the piece. I said, ‘I’m not losing. I’m still here. I’m fighting. I’m not losing.’ But I gotta amend that. When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer, by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
“So live. Live. And fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you. That’s also very, very important. I can’t do this ‘Don’t give up’ thing all by myself.”
We’ve all been marred by the effects of cancer, whether through someone we know, and love, or first-hand.
The most inspiring sentiment anyone can offer through such a fight is to ‘Never give up.’ It’s cliché. Sometimes feels over-said. Until you’ve gone through it. Until you’ve realized the relentless grip with which cancer grabs hold of the mind, body and spirit, and how that breaks down the body over time, first, by infiltrating the mind.
But uttering the words ‘Don’t give up’ can also infiltrate the mind — acting as a counterattack to a disease aimed at killing one’s body and spirit — and it too, can spread like a cancer.
To see someone stand atop a stage reinforcing the idea that cancer can be beaten, just in living the right way, transcends the normal plane on which we typically think of cancer.
It reaches past the body, and touches the spirit.
Watch Scott’s gripping speech (6:47), and the accompanying production segment below.