Wrestling with Cancer

Professional wrestler, Tommy Phillips, watched his friend and mentor wrestle with cancer but he has committed to do something inspiring in the midst of loss. Keep reading to learn more about the man that sparked his passion for wrestling and the driving force behind the Tracy Smothers Memorial Invitational Tournament to benefit Livestrong.

My name is Tommy Phillips. I can’t remember when Professional Wrestling wasn’t one of the most significant parts of my life. Growing up in Oak Ridge, TN, I wasn’t what you would call a popular child. While all the other kids were out playing with their friends, I was searching for the best wrestling VHS tape that I could find, so I could live vicariously through the wrestlers that I idolized.

I made my mind up. I was going to be a wrestler for a living. I got a job at a local restaurant at sixteen to save up money to go to wrestling school. By the time I was seventeen, I had saved up enough to go to the local wrestling school in Clinton, Tennessee. At eighteen years old, I was performing on local wrestling shows and that is when my life changed forever. Tracy Smothers walked into the locker room, and that is when my dream of actually living the life of a pro wrestler became a reality. He had been everywhere, WCW, NWA, ECW, and the WWE, and he gave me his time. Tracy took me under his wing, and he taught me the small things that made you become a better performer, and the rest is history.

Tommy and Tracy

Growing up, wrestlers were larger than life, and after I became one and I understood what kind of strength it took to live that lifestyle for as long as Smothers had, I realized how strong of a person he was. Not only did Tracy exist in the very cutthroat wrestling industry, he did it with a smile and an open hand to grab the ones behind him and drag them through the treacherous waters of the entertainment business. Smothers helped more young professional wrestlers than anyone I’ve ever met or heard of. Nothing phased Tracy until October of 2019, when he was diagnosed with cancer.


It was a year-long battle with Lymphoma that took one of the strongest people that I have ever seen in my life. That year of pain and agony that Smothers endured didn’t ever take his smile or love for wrestling away. I feel like Tracy was more positive than anyone could’ve expected. Seeing a man considered to be one of the toughest, in a world full of tough men, be taken over by cancer was a hard pill to swallow. It never seemed real and still doesn’t seem real. I miss Tracy’s random phone calls where we would spend an hour talking about all the “Drama in Rasslin” as he would say.

Seeing Tracy taken so fast after his diagnosis was something that made me question my mortality, and it makes you question all your nutrition and health choices. You start to question everything when you see someone so strong that is such a large part of your life taken from you. When you are trying to find the best cancer information, it is so easy to get lost in the mix when you are just searching online. Livestrong’s website and social media makes it so much easier.

I am blessed that I haven’t had to go through a battle like Tracy did, but I can only hope I do it with the same class and strength. One thing that does put my mind at ease is knowing that Livestrong is there to help everyone through it. All the information that Livestrong offers to the caregivers and loved ones of cancer warriors is truly priceless.

Livestrong means peace of mind to me. Thank you for what you do for everyone that is struggling through the cancer battle process.

Wrestling with Cancer was originally published in Livestrong Voices on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Tags:Cancer Livestrong