I doubt often watch the awards show, especially one contrived like the ESPY Awards, but I did tune in for a few moments the other night, to watch Robin Roberts, who you may know as Good Morning America co-host or as an outstanding SportsCenter anchor, accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
I have been watching Robin on television for more than half my life. When she told the world that she had breast cancer and then shared the experience of that ordeal with her audience, I was struck by her strength and courage. When she announced that she was in remission, I shared that joy with her. I know what that feeling is like.
But sometime treatment for cancer can lead to other serious medical issues. And this was her case. She was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome. And again she showed her strength and courage. By discussing this diagnosis, the match registry run by the National Marrow Donor Program received a spike in donors — by an amazing 1800%. And thanks to a match, she received a bone marrow transplant and is now recovered and back to work.
She has made a difference in this world, just by trying to live her life to the fullest. The more I learn about her, the more I am inspired by her.
I bring her up today, because I am often struck by how I can be an inspiration to others. I feel like all I have done in my life was try to battle through and get past the hurdles that have been thrown in front of me. Some of them, like the two cancer diagnoses I have received, have been larger than the rest. But fundamentally, they were the same as the rest. Just something to get past. Something to get through. And what I have long thought and believed was that each of you who reads this would have done the exact same thing that I did – which was get up every day and do what I had to do to get past this hurdle. To never retreat, to keep trying to move forward, even in the darkest hour. Because to stop, to fail, to quit, frankly just cannot and will not be an option. Because all I wanted to do was see how this thing called life was going to turn out. And it was some stupid cancer at age 23 or age 38 that was going to take me down. Just like it didn’t take my grandma down when she was diagnosed at age 64 (lived into her 80s) or my grandfather (diagnosed 17 years ago and still going). Or my mom… or the 300 plus survivor/cyclists that will try to squeeze into one big photograph in Bourne, MA in two weekends as part of the PMC. If I or any of these people can provide inspiration to someone in good times or in bad, then I accept that, because I am inspired by all those people too.
Ms. Roberts finished her acceptance speech the other night by taking us back twenty years what she witnessed in-person when former basketball coach Jimmy Valvano accepted the first Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Robin was backstage and was the next presenter after the memorable speech given by Valvano. This is the speech where cancer-stricken Jimmy V. implored us to “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Roberts recalled from Valvano’s speech when he said “We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life. It may save my children’s, it may save someone you love.” (her full speech here)
- Watch Robin Roberts’ touching speech at ESPYs (marquee.blogs.cnn.com)
- Robin Roberts our hero. (thasportsjunkies101.wordpress.com)
- Robin Roberts Steals ESPY Awards With Teary Speech (newsy.com)
- Jimmy V’s speech at the ESPY’s in 1992