Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Scott Hamilton still remembers the moment he received the unexpected news about the tumor growing inside his brain – and how it floored him.
In August 2016, the 58-year-old married father of four kids, who became an overnight sensation after winning Olympic gold in 1984, was diagnosed with his third benign pituitary tumor in 12 years.
Six months later he sat in his surgeon’s office anxiously awaiting the results of an MRI and potentially more bad news.
But the surgeon, who was scheduled to remove the growth, stood in his office, studying the results with a puzzled look on his face before announcing, “This is remarkable.”
“What’s going on?” Hamilton recalls asking the surgeon in an interview that appears in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. (Watch the full episode of the Jess Cagle Interview: Scott Hamilton Today, available now on the new People / Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN).)
The surgeon replied, “It actually is much, much smaller.”
“Can you explain this?” Hamilton asked.
The surgeon’s reply was simple, direct and not at all what one of America’s most beloved Olympic athletes expected.
“God,” he announced.
Hamilton, who had begun relying on Christianity to help him through his earlier health struggles, including his battle with stage 4 testicular cancer in 1997, was literally floored by the physician’s news.
“I was on my knees and [my wife] Tracie was in tears,” he says.
Having long ago grown used to the unpredictability of tumors (he was diagnosed with two other brain tumors in 2004 and 2010), Hamilton knows his health worries are far from over.
“It doesn’t mean just because it receded once that it’s going to stay there,” he says. “They’re nasty, insidious, little, mischievous buggers, and they like to come back, so I’ll keep an eye on it. But right now I’ve got a break, and I need to stay on this path of just being healthy and living right, living well, being faithful, and hoping for the best.”
This article originally appeared on People.com