Cancer survivor Eric Shanteau is taking part in his second Olympic Games this week, and even though that alone is impressive, what he’s doing out of the water is even more impressive. He’s the type of athlete who fully embraces the Olympic –and human–spirit. And his story is enough to make him everyone’s new role model.
Shanteau was diagnosed with testicular cancer right before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, something that was crushing, he told BSU at the Games:
It was devastating to say the least. You get hit with all these emotions all at once. I think the biggest thing is the loss of control. All of a sudden, the control is ripped out of your hands and replaced with a doctor who is essentially giving you a battle plan to save your life.
But Shanteau competed anyway and had the “experience of a lifetime”:
It’s something I worked my entire life to do, and stepping foot on that deck for the first time in Beijing–I’ll definitely never forget that.
After those Games (where he swam a person best), Shanteau went on to have surgery and was later declared cancer-free. But the impact of the disease stayed with him and he became determined to help others facing similar challenges. So he started his own cancer awareness event called Swim for Your Life that is held every year outside of Atlanta. Funds from this event the Livestrong Foundation to help others with cancer.
He also wants to raise awareness of testicular cancer:
My message is that it’s OK to get help and it’s OK to acknowledge you have a problem. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed. Straight, open talk about cancer is the biggest weapon we have against this disease.
He went on to say that his goal right now is not to focus solely on the Olympics, but to help others:
The mission of this has been to always give back. I was given so much help and so much support from people I had never even met before. That was part of the reason why I started this, in some small way, to give back to people who I don’t know who will go through this or have a loved one go through this.
We love that! That’s an attitude that clearly embodies everything the Olympics should be about: paying it forward.
Go, Eric! We will be cheering you on this weekend as you compete in the Medley Relay.