Dick Vitale Reveals What’s Given Him Strength Through 3 Cancer Battles

Updated: Apr. 05, 2024

The sports broadcasting legend has launched a new project with special collaborators even as he recovers from recent surgery.

For more than 40 years, sports broadcaster Dick Vitale has been a commentator for the NBA and previously college basketball. Now he’s giving voice to a different cause.

Also an advocate for pediatric cancer research, on March 19 Vitale, 84, released his latest book Until My Last Breath: Fighting Cancer with My Young Heroes. Each chapter details the stories of courageous children and their families, as well as Dick’s own experiences battling cancer. The foreword by Coach K says, “[Dick’s] huge heart comes through on every page. The heart, character and strength of these praiseworthy young heroes and their remarkable families will shine even more.” A representative for Vitale reports all proceeds benefit the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund and the V Foundation, founded by ESPN in honor of Jim Valvano.

What may be especially remarkable about this book launch is that Vitale himself recently underwent surgery for vocal cord cancer. For that reason, this interview with Vitale was conducted by email, but that made it no less inspiring.

The Healthy by Reader’s Digest: Mr. Vitale, it’s safe to say we all know someone whose life has been touched by cancer. Congratulations on this beautiful new book. What inspired you to undertake this project at this time?

Dick Vitale: I am so thrilled that members of my All-Courageous Team have an opportunity to share the journeys they have had with this vicious disease, cancer. One of the reasons I work intensely to raise dollars for pediatric cancer research is because I hear so many stories from parents about how medicines used to treat their children are actually adult medicines passed down to children. We have raised $68.1 million from our Dick Vitale Gala over the last 18 years, money that is funding cancer research by the V Foundation that is helping to develop new medications.

The Healthy: That’s impressive! If you had to choose one thing that inspired you most in telling these children’s stories, what was it?

Dick Vitale: These young people have inspired me in my three battles with melanoma, lymphoma and recently, vocal cord cancer. Watching the young kids over the years at my 18 Galas helped me to keep a positive attitude. I received a video from several of them that brought me to tears and motivated me, especially when doing six months of chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments.

The Healthy: That’s a powerful motivator to keep fighting. What else has given you strength in your own experiences with cancer?

Dick Vitale: I have been blessed to have a loving family, led by my super wife of 52 years, that have been at my side for the various scans, bloodwork and doctors’ visits in addition to the chemo and radiation treatments. Fans on social media have been off the charts with their love.

All the money from sales will go to the V Foundation’s Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund. Also, if anyone wants to join my team, they can donate at dickvitale.com, where they also can get autographed copies of the book.

Dick VitaleAxelle/Bauer-Griffin/getty images
Dick Vitale with Lorraine, his wife since 1971

The Healthy: You’re known for being so upbeat. Have there been any figures in your professional world who have particularly inspired you when you weren’t feeling like yourself?

Dick Vitale: I received so much LOVE from many sports personalities and college basketball coaches that I have covered over the years that have been so inspiring. For example, I will point out that Rick Barnes, the outstanding leader of Tennessee basketball, would send me daily prayers with his special personal touch. John Calipari, Hall of Fame leader of Kentucky, would call regularly to inform me that at Mass he would light a candle for me.

My ESPN colleagues headed by President Jimmy Pitaro would send texts often encouraging me to just keep fighting and to follow the advice of my medical team.

The Healthy: We are wishing you wellness and vitality. Are there any self-care practices that you refuse to skip?

Dick Vitale: I haven’t missed a Catholic mass in 30-plus years. I also learned to take naps during my cancer treatments. I go out to eat with my family members because I love being out with them and being around people.