Sunday morning was quiet and rainy in Chapel Hill, almost as if the campus itself was crying with us. Stuart Scott ended his seven-year battle with cancer and died at age 49.
While his death saddened us all, Scott’s life and the way he lived also inspired us. At his latest ESPY speech, he reminded us that death in the face of disease doesn’t necessarily signal defeat.
Jack, my younger brother and a freshman here at UNC, reminds me of Stu’s message every day for many reasons.
Scott was born in Chicago before moving with his parents and three siblings to Winston-Salem as a kid. He attended high school at Mount Tabor and R.J. Reynolds, where he was student body vice president before heading off to Chapel Hill for college.
Scott started to have bad stomach pains in 2007. After removing his appendix and examining it, doctors discovered Scott had appendix cancer, a rare form that accounts for just half a percent of all intestinal cancers. Multiple surgeries, numerous chemotherapy sessions and seven years of fighting the disease followed the diagnosis.
The parallels between Scott’s fight and my brother’s are eerie. Like Scott, Jack was born in Chicago where, like Scott, he lived until his parents and three siblings moved to Winston-Salem. Jack attended and graduated from Mount Tabor High School, where he was student body president before being accepted to UNC.
In April 2013, Jack, just 17 at the time, began experiencing bad abdominal pains and weight loss. After his symptoms worsened, he saw a gastroenterologist who discovered that Jack had severe ulcerative colitis, a disease that attacks your colon.
After another two weeks of no progress and a battle with a life-threatening infection, doctors informed Jack that removing his colon was the best option. During the first of two surgeries at UNC, doctors removed Jack’s entire colon, along with his appendix. But when he returned a month later for a checkup prior to his second surgery, a silver lining emerged.
Jack’s appendix was infected with the same cancer found in Scott less than six years prior. If it hadn’t been for the surgery to remove his colon, the cancer would have gone undetected like Scott’s did for so many years.
Stuart Scott was a great sportscaster, but his greatest gift might have been the positivity he exemplified for people like my brother despite the longest of odds.