Holly Rowe on Staying Positive While Battling Cancer

The acclaimed ESPN reporter shares how important sports have been to her as she deals with cancer and how her faith and the support of friends, family and fans help to keep her positive and hopeful.

Read Holly's inspiring cover story from the October 2017 issue of Guideposts!

Hi Guideposts--I'm Holly Rowe, sports reporter from ESPN, and welcome to our Guideposts magazine photo shoot.

I love sports because I grew up in a household that we were obsessed with sports. Growing up, I had all sisters for a long time, and my dad--at 5'3", this little tiny man--he would take us to everything. We would have to be out on the basketball court and to stay on the court, you have to win, and so it would be this little tiny man and his four daughters trying to win against grown men.

So, I've grown up being competitive, loving sports and being at games seeing someone win and lose--that is definitely my happy place.

Years ago, I'd had a small mole on my chest that looked suspicious, so I got it biopsied and they said it was fine. But when it grew back, the scar looked a little strange so I went in to ask the dermotologist, "Can you please remove this? It's ugly." And he said, "Well, it doesn't look right, let's take a look at it," and he called me and said, "It's cancer. It's a very rare form of cancer called desmoplastic melanoma."

And so it was a shocking diagnosis, but at that time, I wasn't really scared because I thought, oh, they'll just cut it off and things will be fine. 

Well, what I've learned about melanoma and what I want to share about melanoma is that it is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, and you can not mess around with it. So from that one surgery, I've had a second recurrance with a tumor under my armpit. They've had to take all of my lymph nodes out, and now I've got a third recurrance in my lung. 

And I will say that the one that they told me had moved into my organs, that was pretty devastating news. I remember hearing one of the nurses say, "You're lucky. This used to be a death sentence to get this diagnosis," but because of the new treatments that are available now, it's now been over a year and I'm kind of still plugging along with this dumb tumor in my lung, but it's going great. I now go have infusions every 21 days, my tumor is shrinking.

But it is hard and you have side effects and you don't feel great, and I really credit my love for sports, because having something to look forward to and having games to look forward to and every game someone wins or loses and that spirit is really helping me stay strong through my fight right now. 

My work has been a great inspiration to me because every single time I go to work, it brings me joy and it gives me something to look forward to, so there are days when you're kind of slogging along. You're a cancer patient and you're at the hospital, you're getting IVs and CAT scans, and if I know I have something to look forward to, a game that I'm going to or an athlete that I want to see, that has really helped me keep a hopeful, positive attitude of things I look forward to.

The other advice I would give people who are going through cancer is, don't be afraid to ask for help. I think in our lives we go through life thinking, oh, I'm so strong, I can accomplish anything, and I do feel like that about myself, but sometimes I haven't been strong through this process and it's been hard. So having my friends and my family and my son to lean on and all of my sports teams--I feel like I have Team America really helping me and supporting me right now.

So ask for help. People who are around you love you and they want to support you, they want to help you because cancer is a scary diagnosis for your friends and loved ones, too, and the only thing they can do to help you is support you and be there for you. So don't be afraid to ask for help. 

I can't control what's going to happen in my life with this cancer diagnosis, but I can be joyful every day. I have made it a priority to still do service for others, so I'm not so focused on what's going on with me. And I think that comes from my faith. And the power of prayer--I'm just blown away by how many people are praying for me and supporting me, and I feel that love and energy every single day and it is helping me. So my faith has been something that I've been able to lean on throughout this whole process.

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