Stuart Scott is one of the faces of ESPN.
But now the anchor is telling about his private battle against a very tough opponent.
Inside the mixed martial arts studio, Scott lifted the black T-shirt that read, “Everyday I Fight.” Beneath was a footlong scar that bisected the ESPN anchor’s washboard abs.
“It’s a sign of life,” he said, though it is the spot where cancer surgeons have opened his abdomen three times to remove parts of him.
Scott’s fight continues. He has had 58 infusions of chemotherapy. He recently switched to a pill. But the drugs have not fully arrested the cancer that struck first in 2007, when his appendix was removed. It returned four years later. And it came back again last year. Each recurrence seems more dire, and yet after each, Scott has returned to his high-profile work at ESPN, ensuring that his private fight also has become a public one.
Friends, family, colleagues and strangers ask how he is faring. Yet Scott, 48, says he does not want to know his prognosis.
“I never ask what stage I’m in,” he said recently over lunch. “I haven’t wanted to know. It won’t change anything to me. All I know is that it would cause more worry and a higher degree of freakout. Stage 1, 2 or 8, it doesn’t matter. I’m trying to fight it the best I can.”
Scott’s approach once puzzled Sage Steele, a fellow ESPN anchor and one of his closest friends.
“I’ve asked him on two occasions: ‘What does this mean? What do the doctors say?' ” she said. “And I’m nervous asking it, but after hearing his answer for the second time, I choose not to ask again. I don’t know if I could do it the same way.”
Scott’s sister, Susan, says she understands her brother’s psychology.
“I think he can only live with this by not even incorporating the potential end of it,” she said in a telephone interview from North Carolina. “It’s too weighty. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t think about it, but to let it in starts to validate it and gives it more heft.” But, she added, “Every time I get a call that Stuart’s in the hospital, I have to think about what this means for his mortality, and is this the time?”
Scott’s absences from ESPN are noticeable because he remains one of the network’s most familiar personalities. Hired in 1993, he soon became one of the signature anchors on “SportsCenter” and on the network’s N.F.L. and N.B.A. programming. “SportsCenter” stars like Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen left the network over the years, but Scott has remained.
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