16 July, 2014, Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, USA
You know tomorrow, all my boys are gonna be like "yo man, I saw you at the ESPYs with Peyton Manning, Money Mayweather and KD" and I'm gonna be like "yeah, whatever". Jack Bauer saved the world and he introduced me...
24 is my favourite TV show of all time so Kiefer Sutherland, thank you very much, I am very honored.
Every day I am reminded that our life's journey is really about the people who touch us. When I first heard that I was gonna be honoured with this reward, the very first thing that I did was - I was speechless, briefly. I've presented this award before. I mean, I've watched in awe as Kay Yow and Eric LeGrand and all these other great people have graced this stage. And although intellectually, I get it. I'm a public figure, I have a public job, I'm battling cancer, hopefully I'm inspiring - at my gut level, I really didn't think that I belonged with those great people. But I listened to what Jim Valvano said 21 years ago. The most poignant seven words ever uttered in any speech anywhere. "Don't give up, don't ever give up". Those great people didn't. Coach Valvano didn't. So, to be honoured with this, I now have a responsibility to also not ever give up. I'm not special. I just listened to what the man said. I listened to all that he said, everything that he asked of us. And that's the build for the foundation. And let me tell you, man, it works. I'm talking tangible benefits. You saw me in that clinical trial. Now, here's the thing about that. Coach Valvano's words 21 years ago helping me and thousands of people like me, right now. Direct benefits. That's why all of this, why we're here tonight, that's why it's so important. I also realized something else recently. You heard me kinda allude to it in the piece. I said "I'm not losing. I'm still here, I'm fighting. I'm not losing." But I've gotta amend that. When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.
So, live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you. That's also very, very important. I can't do this "don't give up" thing all by myself. I've got thousands of people on Twitter and on the streets who encourage me. I've got these amazingly wonderful people at ESPN. I've got corporate executives - my bosses, this is true - who would text message me. They said "hey, I heard you had chemotherapy today, you want me to stop by on the way home from work and pick you up something to eat and bring it to you?" Seriously? Who does that? Whose boss does that? My bosses do that.
But even with all that the fight is still much more difficult than I even realized. What you didn't see in the piece is what's gone on probably the last ten days. I just got out of the hospital this past Friday. Seven day stay. Man, I crashed. I had liver complications. I had kidney failure. I had four surgeries in a span of seven days. I had tubes and wires running in and out of every part of my body. Guys, when I say every part of my body: every part of my body. As of Sunday, I didn't even know if I'd make it here. I couldn't fight. But doctors and nurses could. The people that I love and my friends and family - they could fight. My girlfriend, who slept on a very uncomfortable hospital cot by my side every night, she could fight. The people that I love did last week what they always do. They visited, they talked to me, they listened to me, they sat silent sometimes, they loved me. And that's another one of the components of the BeFoundation. This whole fight, this journey thing, is not a solo venture. This is something that requires support.
I called my big sister Susan a few days ago. Why? I needed to cry. It was that simple. And I know that I can call her, I can call my other sister Synthia, my brother Stephen, my mom and dad, and I can just cry. And those things are very important.
I have one more necessity. Eh, it's really two. Two very vibrant, intelligent, beautiful young ladies. The best thing I have ever done, the best thing I will ever do, is be a dad to Taelor and Sydni. It's true. I can't ever give up because I can't leave my daughters. Yes, sometimes I embarrass them. Sometimes, they think I'm a tyrant. That's a direct quote. There is an adjective that describes tyrant too, but I'm not gonna go there. But Taelor and Sydni, I love you guys more than I will ever be able to express. You two are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage here tonight because of you.
My oldest daughter, Taelor, I wanted her to be here, but college sophomore, summer school, second semester's starting this week. Baby girl, I love you, but you go do you. You go do that. My littlest angel is here. My fourteen year old. Sydni, come up here and give dad a hug, because I need one.
I want to say thank you ESPN, thank you ESPYs, thank all of you. Have a great rest of your night and have a great rest of your life.