Craig Sager: My diagnosis and stem cell transplant
September 14, 2016
Craig Sager’s advice for cancer patients
BY Cynthia DeMarco
Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager is known for his colorful and fun attire, but he wants to be known for living a colorful life off-court as well.
The three-time acute myeloid leukemia survivor is now facing his third stem cell transplant, but an upbeat attitude keeps him optimistic about his prognosis — and buoys not only his spirits, but those of other cancer patients and their families.
“It’s all in how you approach life,” Craig says. “If you think negatively, you’re not any fun to be around. I want every person who visits me to be like, ‘Hey, he’s just like normal. He may have lost his hair from chemo, but he’s gonna make it. He’s gonna beat cancer.’”
Here, Craig shares his approach to staying positive during cancer treatment.
Start with a strong foundation
The core of Craig’s support system is his wife, Stacy, and his five children.
“Stacy’s my biggest supporter. I want her with me every second. But with two young kids at home, she can’t be.”
When Stacy can’t be by his side during his visits to MD Anderson, Craig surrounds himself with reminders of her and their life together.
“I bring pictures of my family and put them on the walls.”
The importance of staying active
Craig also finds great satisfaction in continuing to work.
“Work is not only something that gets you going. It makes you forget what you’re facing,” Craig says. “When I go get chemo or a transfusion or whatever, that’s something I have to do. But when I go to my job, I know what I’m doing, and I love doing it. Those are moments that leukemia can’t take from me.”
Until he was diagnosed with cancer, Craig had never missed a single day of work. And today, more than two years after his initial diagnosis, he’s determined to keep working as much as possible. “Sure, there are limitations,” he admits. “But I try not to let leukemia get the best of me.”
The power of faith and hope
Two other things that help Craig stay positive are faith and hope.
“Cancer is a journey,” Craig says. “And it’s not easy. But you can’t do it without faith and hope. They’re as important as air and water. Have faith in your doctors, faith that they will find a cure. Hope is not being naïve or in denial. It’s the foundation of everything I do.”
“Paint the canvas with optimism”
The one thing Craig refuses to do is feel sorry for himself.
“When you’re struck with cancer, you don’t know exactly how much time you have left,” he says. “So we try to make every day important. I want to see my kids grow up, to see my son play tennis and my daughter go to college. But in the meantime, I’m not looking ahead. I’m living with them today. My motto is to look forward to the future, but to live in the present.”
Craig is also quick to emphasize the importance of a positive attitude when dealing with cancer.
“The way you think affects the way you feel. And that, in turn, influences how you act,” he says. “So don’t ask, ‘Why me?’ Nobody knows why. Just face the facts and be positive. Look forward to the battle ahead. You’re not there to wither away. You’re there to be cured. So paint the canvas with optimism.”
My motto is to look forward to the future, but to live in the present.