Shaun White’s Olympic career has come to an end, but one of his most ardent supporters is in the thick of her own battle.
White’s physical therapist, Esther Lee, accompanied him to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics less than two years after she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The cancer, detected in the summer of 2020, spread to her spine, liver and lymph nodes. Doctors removed a tumor the size of a grapefruit from her pancreas. Chemotherapy and radiation followed.
“The day I told him about my diagnosis, he just broke down and —” Lee told NBC Olympics, while unable to finish her thought as she began crying.
“How could such an amazing person that only gives to others have something like this happen to her?” White said in a video he made for NBC Olympics.
Lee, who has treated White for seven years and also works with tennis great Serena Williams, says she hopes to remain optimistic.
“I am going to try and live the best that I can, no matter what the scans say,” she said.
Is she scared?
“It’s not so much death I’m scared of. Honestly, I’m scared of suffering,” she said.
Williams is trying to raise money for pancreatic cancer research and Lee is moved by the outpouring of support she has gotten.
“I’m surrounded by so many wonderful people who’ve been so generous and so supportive. It’s so encouraging,” Lee said.
White is one of the many on her side.
“I love her to death, more than any of this Olympics and these sports or any of this stuff,” he said.
“To have her with me right now, it’s everything, cuz I didn’t really think I was going to have her with me,” he added while fighting back tears.
White is in his final Olympics and Lee can’t help but notice how the tables have turned in their relationship.
“I feel like I’ve been the strong one for him over these past seven years and for him to be the strong one for me has been really awesome,” she said. “These moments are my favorite that I’ll never forget.”