Lance Armstrong inspires Danville cancer survivor
After cure, man starts Have a Ball Foundation to raise funds, awareness
Bob Hammer has a good reason to help promote National LiveStrong Day, which was Tuesday, May 13. The Danville resident says if it weren't for a piece of advice Lance Armstrong's oncologist gave him, his son would never have been born.
Hammer is a two-time survivor of testicular cancer and the founder of the Have a Ball Foundation, which holds an annual golf tournament to raise funds for cancer research and awareness.
He met the famous cyclist in 2001 when, after 26 rounds of chemotherapy, Hammer participated in Armstrong's annual "Ride for the Roses" event.
"We were there because I was sick and everybody else was there because they wanted to meet Lance," said Hammer. "So we kinda stood out, and to that end we were introduced to Lance and Lance's oncologist."
The world-famous doctor, Craig Nichols, advised Hammer against having a surgery that was scheduled for the following week. The operation would have prevented Hammer, age 31 at the time, from ever having children again.
He took the advice and cancelled the surgery.
"About 10 months later my wife was pregnant - naturally. Which in and of itself doesn't happen too often after testicular cancer," Hammer said.
Now he and his 4-year-old son Josh are using their story to give back. With the help of corporate sponsors like Ariba and Peninsula Building Materials, the Have a Ball Foundation has raised more than $400,000 so far.
"Certainly somebody was watching over, you know?" said Hammer. "We felt we needed to do something. My wife and I wanted to give back for this gift that we got."
The foundation benefits a host of local cancer organizations, such as Camp Okizu, a northern California camp for children with cancer, the UC San Francisco cancer resource center and Children's Hospital Oakland.
LiveStrong is a fundraising program that leverages the fame Armstrong earned after winning the Tour de France seven times in a row, from 1999 to 2005, despite being diagnosed with a serious form of testicular cancer. The athlete has used his popularity to help fight cancer and encourage people to live life to the fullest.
"He certainly raised the bar on how to attack this disease," said Hammer. He said one of Armstrong's slogans in particular resonated with him - the "obligation of the cured."
"I wholeheartedly agree with that," he said. "It is the obligation of the cured to raise awareness and let people know about this disease."
He said testicular cancer is rarely talked about because culturally it's deemed embarrassing or inappropriate. Also, the disease targets a young age group, 15-29, and these young men tend to ignore initial warning signs, giving the cancer time to spread. That's why it's so important to raise awareness.
Hammer co-founded the Have a Ball Foundation with his good friend Steven Seaweed, a prostate cancer survivor and popular DJ for 107.7 "The Bone" in San Francisco. He heard Seaweed on radio one day during a chemo treatment and called up to tell him his story.
"We just kind of became friends ever since," Hammer said. "We always said, 'Hey you know what? We should do something together.'"
This year they donated $40,000 to the Lance Armstrong Foundation in honor of LiveStrong Day. Hammer also appeared on several local television programs with his son Josh, to share their story.
"Hopefully when he's older he'll be able to know what his dad did," said Hammer. "Hopefully he'll be proud."