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LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
- April 21, 2008
- Vol. 69
- No. 15
Skater Scott Hamilton Overcame Cancer, a Brain Tumor—and Infertility—to Bring His Precious Second Son into the World
7 lbs. 8 oz.
When Scott and Tracie Hamilton's son Maxx was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and looking as purple as a berry, "I was scared to death," says the former skating champion. Doctors tended to Maxx for 15 minutes before he returned to a healthy pink and finally burst into tears, which was the happiest sound his parents could imagine. "When he cried, we cried too," says Hamilton, cradling Maxx in the living room of the family's home in Franklin, Tenn. "It was pretty amazing."
But it was nothing compared to the dramatic lengths to which the Hamiltons went to have the baby they call "Miracle Maxx." After beating testicular cancer in 1997, Hamilton, 49, was diagnosed in 2004 with a nonmalignant brain tumor near his pituitary gland. The chemotherapy he received to treat the testicular cancer hadn't prevented the 1984 Olympic gold medalist from getting Tracie pregnant with son Aidan, who was born in 2003; chemotherapy generally stifles male fertility only temporarily. But the radiation that subdued Hamilton's brain tumor harmed his pituitary gland. As a result, his body stopped producing hormones, including testosterone—which had an adverse effect on his fertility. Still, "we always knew we'd like a couple of kids," says Tracie, 38, who wed Scott in 2002. Adds Scott: "You have one [child] for you and have a second one for the first one."
For a year, the couple tried to conceive without success. Considering in vitro fertilization a last resort, they went to UCLA endocrinologist Dr. Christina Wang, who prescribed two different hormones to spike Hamilton's testosterone and stimulate his sperm production. The success rate is over 80 percent, says Dr. Wang: "It's treatable if the patient is persistent."
Treatment, though, is not for the faint of heart. The hormones, one of which Hamilton had to mix himself and store in the refrigerator, were self-injected in the stomach and thigh three times a week, back-to-back. "I did it first thing in the morning," he says. "The [shot in the stomach] always stung, even though it was the smaller needle. The [thigh] shot required a 5/8" needle and a full insulin-type syringe. Sometimes the needle bent if I hit a nerve or a spasm," says Hamilton. "If I hit a vein, I could cause a gusher of blood, so I had to be careful. People say you can't give yourself a shot, but when you're faced with it, you do whatever it takes."
"I was always apologizing to him," says Tracie. "I'd hear this 'Ow' from the bathroom and I'd feel badly. I told him he could stop anytime if he didn't want to go through with it." In April 2007, after countless injections and much disappointment—not to mention an out-of-pocket cost of $23,000 since insurance didn't cover the treatment—Hamilton did just that. "It was 1 1/2 years of nothing," he says. "I thought it just wasn't meant to be."
But then it was: A month later, while they were driving home after school, Aidan asked Tracie about baby names out of the blue. "I took a pregnancy test that day," says Tracie. Hamilton was in Cleveland getting a medical checkup when Tracie sent a picture of the positive pregnancy test to his cell phone. His response? "Are you sure? This is unbelievable!"
Miracle or not, according to Dr. Wang, who works at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Hamilton may have had enough healthy hormones in his body to conceive. The former skating champ counts his blessings. In addition to producing ice shows, working for the Pituitary Network Association and serving as a skating analyst for NBC, he's gotten back on the ice again for the first time since his brain tumor diagnosis four years ago. He hasn't decided if he will return to performing, but no matter. Considered the consummate entertainer who was happiest in front of an audience, Hamilton now finds joy in simple pleasures, like playing floor hockey with Aidan and bringing a smile to the face of his baby Maxx. "With what I've endured, if I can be happy, anyone can," he says, adding with a laugh: "I'm a short, bald, half-neutered, chemo-ed, radiated male figure skater. What choice do I have but to be optimistic?"
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