Wednesday, March 23, 2016


By the time I settled in to watch HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel Tuesday night,
I was emotionally prepared for the story I tuned in to see. Craig Sager, the longtime
and quite colorful sports reporter for TNT, was losing his battle with leukemia. Earlier
that day, various media outlets, in advance of that night's show, stated Sager was told
by doctors he had just "3-6 months to live."

Sager, 64, is an icon in Atlanta, the place he's called home for several decades, but as
we've long known, cancer doesn't discriminate. Black, white, rich, poor, famous, or just a
regular person, the devastating disease goes on the attack and rarely loses.

Sager's saga became national news because society has dubbed him a celebrity because
he's on television reporting on a basketball game. As often as he's been on television
over the years, Sager is really no more special or important than the millions who
are in the same position he is, battling the terrible disease.

Last Friday, I was assigned to cover a story on a former teacher who was heading to
Mexico for 'alternative' treatments for her cancer, a rare form of sarcoma. She and her
doctors had exhausted every option and treatment and were in search of a miracle.

This 45-year-old woman who stood nearly 6-feet tall, had endured 29 chemotherapy
treatments and nine surgeries. Her estranged husband called the trip to Mexico, "the final shot"
which really put everything in perspective.

A one-time contestant in the New Jersey beauty pageant, she was still quite stunning on
the outside, but on the inside, tumors were ravaging her body. She tried to put on a
happy face with her mega-watt smile, but it was clear she was very much in pain.

The family, including her 12-year-old son, Rex, who alerted our television station of
the fundraiser at her house, was trying to raise the final amount needed to help her
cover three months of treatment. There was an elaborate spread and well-known
comedian Rob Magnoti, a lifelong friend of the woman,  was invited to add some levity
to a most difficult situation.

Asking questions about one's mortality and shrinking life-span, isn't the favorite part of
a reporter's job, but they are questions that have to be asked. Others in the business say
they get used to it. I never have. It's life. It's death. The TV thing is not that important.

The woman had tears in her eyes as she embraced her 12-year-old son while on-camera.
She cried knowing that unless she gets a miracle in Mexico, the time with her son is
running out quickly, like sand through an hour glass.

That is tough, like a sledgehammer hitting you in the gut.

That former beauty queen is tough. So is Craig Sager. And so are the millions of
cancer victims who've had to battle the disease and do it away from the cameras. Outside
of their family, they don't get the sympathy of a Sager or the former beauty queen. They
don't get the attention or called "courageous" to thousands or even million of viewers.

They are courageous. They are special. They all drew a bad card in life, but they
stare down chemotherapy treatments, lose their hair, weight, and in cases, their self-esteem.
They battle, they fight, they rebound, and hope their cancer goes into remission. Sager's
cancer went into remission twice. After it came back again, doctors didn't offer very
much hope, shrinking Sager's time on earth to about six months.

Preparing for death just doesn't seem right, especially when there are young kids who
have to face a future without a mother or father. It's daunting all the way around. Sager
wanted to see all his kids grow up and get married. So did the former school teacher.
Both know it's not going to happen.

Millions of people share a common bond with Sager and the former beauty queen in
that their cause of death will be the same. But even though they aren't celebrities on
television, they are just as courageous and just as special. They fight the good fight,
hoping against hope every single minute of every single days.

They are warriors. They are special. Every single one of them.

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