Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Spotlight: Scott Lagasse Jr.
March 20, 2023
TeamSLR Owner Credits Quick, Decisive Action for His Ability To Beat Cancer;
Partners with American Gastroenterological Association To Promote Screening
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (March 17, 2023) – Scott Lagasse Jr., has competed for some of the most high-profile teams in North American stock car racing over his last two decades as a racecar driver. But there’s one team he says he never signed up for that makes him incredibly proud to be a part of – cancer survivor.
Lagasse, who with his father Scott co-owns and runs TeamSLR in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli, credits his quick and decisive action back in early 2015 for his ability to beat colorectal cancer (CRC), which is the second deadliest form of cancer in the U.S., with one in 24 people receiving a positive diagnosis in his or her lifetime.
Ironically, Lagasse’s diagnosis came just weeks after his 34th birthday when he felt in the best shape of his life. He had just finished third in the season-opening NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for owner Bob Newberry’s NTS Motorsports team. He was also in the midst of training for his first triathlon, feverishly working out 15 hours a week in the pool, on his bike, and running the roads.
“I’m feeling invincible, nothing can touch me, I thought – except for this little pressure down low, in my stomach,” Lagasse said. “After taking a couple of days off over a couple of weeks, the frustration finally got to me. You’re not going to win races sitting on the couch, taking days off. So I consulted my personal doctor. He himself is a triathlete and understands me well. We have a great relationship, and he knows how stubborn I am. So it took a great sales pitch, but he convinced me to go see a gastrointestinal doctor, who convinced me to have a colonoscopy. I’m in my early 30s and I had no interest in doing that, but I’m glad I did.”
The procedure revealed Lagasse had colon cancer, and immediately he feared the worst. How would his wife Kelley, who was six months pregnant with their first child, carry on without him? What would happen to his employees who depended on him for their livelihood? And the potential grief his parents would have to deal with?
“That’s when the racer inside me took over – I decided I’m going to beat this thing,” Lagasse said. “One of the neat things about my life, my job, my career, is that I’ve met all kinds of people in all kinds of different fields. I started calling the smartest people I could find. I didn’t need to know how or why I had what I had, I just needed to know how to fix it, not just for me, but for all the people who depended on me. The answer was simple – surgery – and I needed surgery quickly.”
Within two weeks of his original diagnosis, Lagasse was in the operating room, his medical team executing the procedure successfully and sending him onto the road to recovery. It was a relatively short one as, just six weeks later, he was back behind the wheel of the NTS Motorsports racetruck at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where he drove to an eighth-place finish.
“If cancer can catch me at 200 mph, it can catch anybody,” Lagasse said. “I was lucky. I listened to my body. Most people don’t. Excuses, they’ve never helped me win a race. Excuses have never helped me with anything in my life, for that matter. Too busy running our business, our employees, racing all over the country? It took just two days out of my life to save my life. Fear? Heck yeah I was scared. In my career, you’re supposed to be invincible. But no matter who you are, know the warning signs – a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, aches or cramps that don’t go away, unexplainable weight loss – and if you’re 45 years old or older, just go and get checked. It’s not that big of a deal. If I didn’t go get screened, I may not be here today, I don’t know – it’s not worth knowing.”
With March being National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, TeamSLR and its partner, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), have stepped up their year-round campaign promoting CRC screenings and other preventative measures.
Lagasse’s ability to beat cancer prompted him to establish ScreenYourMachine.org, designed to educate people on getting age-appropriate screenings for all types of cancer. ScreenYourMachine.org ensures the most important machine – YOU – runs at peak performance, no matter the mileage. It’s the kind of advocacy championed by this collaboration between TeamSLR and AGA, the trusted voice of the gastroenterology community for 125 years. AGA’s vision is a world free of digestive diseases, including colorectal cancer.
CRC screening is safe and effective, and most people have options, including at-home tests. It’s why Lagasse advocates for screening via his non-profit organization and his race team, encouraging those of average risk to begin their colorectal cancer screenings at age 45. However, those who have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, offspring) with colorectal cancer have two to three times the risk of developing the disease. They should speak to a doctor about getting screened earlier than normal.
“For me, it’s simple – when people get screened, lives are saved,” Lagasse said. “This knowledge is powerful and life-changing. I didn’t realize how important CRC screening was, but now that I know, I spread the word and try to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s what I’m about. I wouldn’t be racing today if I didn’t catch my cancer early.”
About the AGA Institute:
The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to more than 16,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization. For more information, please visit www.gastro.org.