His 1st cancer diagnosis came in 1988 when he was playing on a mini tour. He was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma of the jaw. It’s a cancer of the adenoid gland that goes into the gland and from there, travels into the body. “Technically, it’s stage IV metastatic disease, not a very good thing to have. So, in many ways, it forces me to look at what time is left and make most of it,” Ben says.
He hasn’t let cancer get in the way of building a career. He says, “One piece of advice is just don’t stop living. You know, my goal is to never again be a cancer patient. I want to be busy and active for rest of my days.”
When Ben was in the hospital doing radiation treatment, he became depressed. “I had gotten a lousy attitude. Then, my mom brought a golf ball and club into my room and I started tapping it up and down, and that’s how I learned I could do trick shots.” He started seeing the reactions people had to some of shots that he could hit, and he turned that into a career teaching golf, and hosting a trick shot show that he took around the world.
He says, smiling, “It just turned out to be amazing gift because not only did it allow me to get through my first round of cancer, but it renewed my interest in a career in golf. So, it turned out to be pretty special.” Scroll down to watch the video of Ben's story.
Ben says, “When I first started doing the show, I felt self-conscious about my looks and speech. But, a close friend said to me, ‘Don’t hide your story. Tell them what you’re about.’ All of a sudden, there was this common bond with so many people.” His story has inspired many who are facing cancer in their own life. “I’m not just out there hitting golf balls… I’m sharing my fight,” he says.
He’s done his show in 38 states in the US and 14 countries including Japan, Spain, India and Thailand.
None of Ben’s personal experience facing cancer could compare to getting news that his daughter, Gabbie, also had cancer.
Gabbie was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a very rare cancer that attacks bone marrow. While going through 8 months of chemo, she leaned on her family for support, especially her dad who she looked up to. “Having been diagnosed, she’s seen me go through it and it gave her strength and courage face it without that doomsday fear,” Ben says.
“There’s negativity and depression that comes with a cancer diagnosis that are mentally and physically challenging. I tell Gabbie, ‘Stay positive and look forward to what’s next, not just treatment… your senior year of high school. Thankfully, Gabbie has done well. She’s back at school, her hair is growing back, and as Ben says, “She’s well on way to being normal teenager again so that’s great. It’s been a blessing.”
Ben is extremely proud of how Gabbie has dealt with her diagnosis, saying, “She’s dedicated herself to helping others. She’s a great kid.”
Read Ben’s powerful letter to cancer that he shared on his blog
Are you a parent with a child who is facing cancer? Are you going through it yourself? What words of advice can you offer?