Scott Breece is in the business of protection. As a young sailor aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Scott dedicated himself to defending our nation. As a cybersecurity professional, he helps safeguard private health data from prying eyes.
And as a cancer patient, he did everything he could to protect his loved ones from the trauma of his life-threatening diagnosis.
In 2014, after just a few months of difficulty swallowing and keeping down food, Scott had rapidly lost 50 pounds. When five different reflux medications proved ineffective, an endoscopy and CT scan revealed a rare form of esophageal cancer.
Just four days later, doctors implanted his port to immediately begin a 12-week course of chemotherapy and radiation.
The next summer, Scott finally received the news that every cancer patient desperately wants to hear. After a marathon operation requiring three different surgeons, a biopsy of 36 separate lymph nodes showed that he was finally in the clear.
But, unlike most patients, he met his new prognosis with little emotion or expression, prompting one of his doctors to return the next day and ask about his reaction.
“She asked if I was okay, and I told her I was fine,” Scott explained. “At the time, the survival rate for my type of cancer was just two percent. She was worried that I wasn’t excited because I didn’t understand what had just happened. But all I could think about was the work left ahead of me.”
Cancer demands both mental and emotional stamina. For Scott, finding that stamina meant assuming the roles of both patient and protector.
Whether celebrating or suffering, he did it in silence. He found himself isolating, both physically and mentally, to help maintain his composure and to reassure his wife and young daughter; to protect them from the harsh reality of his cancer through a display of quiet confidence.
Now, he has just one word of advice to give other cancer patients – and that’s to speak up. “Be vocal about your cancer, your treatment, and your recovery,” said Scott. “I tried to internalize my experience and keep things private by looking within myself for encouragement.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better support system, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that you have to open up to get the support you truly need,” he explained.
After spending two weeks recovering in the hospital, Scott had to relearn how to eat, how to drink, and how to restore his mind and body after emerging from the fight of his life.
“When I went through that process, I wasn’t given a lot of direction outside of being referred to a therapist,” said Scott. Eventually, he enrolled at a local gym to begin the process of rebuilding strength and endurance on his own.
In 2020, he was introduced to Survivor Fitness by his friend who was serving as the foundation’s board chair at the time.
Later that year, Scott attended the 2020 Nashville Survivor Soiree where participants shared stories of their own cancer journeys and all the ways that Survivor Fitness changed their lives.
The experience compelled him to join as a board member and to use his voice to help end the post-treatment gap into survivorship.
“Survivor Fitness is unique because all we do is help people recover from cancer,” said Scott. “When you’re physically healthy, your mental state improves. Even after just one workout, you’ll emerge with a clear head to help you deal with life’s stresses.”
“As a survivor myself, the work we do is near and dear to my heart,” he explained. “That’s why I’m determined to leverage my experience and my network to connect Survivor Fitness with organizations across the country.”
Scott Breece serves as Vice President and Chief Security Officer at Cerner in Franklin, Tennessee. Click here for a complete list of Survivor Fitness board members and other members of its leadership team.