HOUSTON (CBS Houston): There are certain things that no person ever really wants to talk about. One of those is our own mortality, particularly if you have come close to experiencing it.
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair addressed his mortality Thursday afternoon at NRG Stadium, via press conference, essentially in front of the entire world. People don’t realize how difficult it is to do that, especially to do it and remain composed. Mr. McNair’s class was on full display, but so was the fact he had lost his hair and lost a good amount of weight. His mortality was on full display. For any man, let alone a man of his stature, that is a hard thing to accept. No one wants to appear to be anything less than their best in front of the world.
That said, Mr. McNair shared his experience with the world to help educate and bring awareness to what he fought. He believes that sharing experiences and knowledge will pave the way for more people to take their health more seriously.
It was just a small lump, Mr. McNair said, right behind his ear. No big deal, right? That small lump, it turned out, was what led doctors to discover he had cancer.
Fortunately for the Texans owner, his cancer was discovered in time and was treatable. It required very painful radiation sessions, some that actually burned his skin so badly he needed to have skin grafts done, per the story in the Houston Chronicle by John McClain. He underwent chemotherapy, which if you know anyone who has ever undergone chemo, can cause a person to become very ill.
Bob McNair’s story isn’t unique, but its important, because so many men won’t take the time to consider their health. We rationalize that we are too busy and we don’t have time to go to the doctor. We dismiss it as being ‘just a bump that will go away’. Often times, we wait far too long, and sometimes, until it’s too late.
I was once one of those people. “I’m fine. There’s no need for me to waste a day in a doctor’s office,” is a typical line I would often say regarding practically anything that wasn’t a pressing medical emergency. Then one day, I had ‘the lump’.
It wasn’t a large lump, in fact, you probably wouldn’t have noticed it, as it laid just around an average shirt collar in the front of my neck. I found it completely by accident. I don’t know how long I had it. I know I was going to dismiss it as no big deal, but then it started to bother me. I kept poking at it. Finally, I went to see a doctor.
After the lump was removed, I learned that it was the beginning of something that would have been far more serious if I had not caught it then. I was fortunate that all the cancer cells were contained in a small section. I don’t know what made me break down and go see a doctor, but there’s a chance this story isn’t being written if I hadn’t.
However, my story wasn’t something I was looking to go tell people. Certainly not something I wanted to address in front of television cameras. Face to face with my own mortality, I went about my treatment quietly, and didn’t even tell most family members.
I didn’t want anyone to know. It’s a reaction most people have. We don’t share what our doctors tell us, how to try to prevent such recurrences, what the causes were, anything. Is it privacy, concern, fear, embarrassment? All of the above? Many people close to me are finding this out for the first time as they read this story. Bob McNair’s words today inspired me to share.
Mr. McNair’s message today wasn’t about football, although he explained how his son Cal had been handling a lot of things with the team, and is the man who will be the boss when Bob steps away. His message was about life, about people, those of us who watch the Texans, but also those people who don’t. Football is not a common denominator among cancer patients, but Mr. McNair used the far reaching power of sports and the NFL to send a message to the world to take better care of itself, to live better, and longer, by practicing preventative measures and utilizing the great world-class medical facilities the city of Houston has to offer.
If the courage displayed today by Mr. McNair allowed his message to reach 1 person who became motivated enough to get checked, to either rule out greater illness or to catch illness and defeat it, it was a success. Hopefully this story will help further his message. Live well while you can, share your knowledge and experiences, and don’t let your mortality sneak up on you.
(Congratulations to my mother. 17 years ago she began her battle against cancer, endured chemotherapy, and is cancer free 16 years as of August 18th)
Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” Sundays 2-5p on Sportsradio 610 Houston. Follow him on Twitter: @PCreighton1