Tommy Archer is used to living life in the fast lane. The very fast lane. Tommy is a Duluth-based professional road racer whose “racing resume is the stuff of legend,” reports his hometown paper, the Duluth News Tribune. Together with his teammate and brother Bobby, Tommy has won multiple Sports Car Club of America and International Motor Sports Associations championships, and “twice finished at the renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans.” Over the past 10 years, he “mostly served as a driving coach,” helping other drivers learn to go faster.
But in 2012, prostate cancer put the brakes on all of that. Tommy had come to Mayo Clinic for a physical, where doctors found “an aggressive form of cancer that had spread beyond the prostate.” Even for the normally upbeat Tommy, the news was devastating. “You hear cancer and the first thing you think is that you’re getting a death sentence,” he tells us. But armed with a competitor’s mentally, Tommy was ready to fight. He followed his doctor’s orders, and “was confident he had completed a perfect recovery,” reports the Duluth Reader. “[J]ust when he thought he was cancer free,” however, his doctors “noted a significant PSA increase.” They took Tommy off his medication “to let the tumor grow so it could more easily be detected,” and in March 2015 removed an egg-sized tumor from his lymph node. The surgery was a success, and Tommy got the news he’d been waiting for: he was finally cancer free. After hearing that, Tommy went outside and sat next to a statue of Will and Charlie Mayo, where he tells us he “prayed and thanked God along with the Mayo brothers for their vision to help save people’s lives and make their lives better.”
But he didn’t sit for long. Tommy had decided to return to racing — not as a coach, but as a competitor. And while at 60 he’s decades older than many of the other drivers (“they call me dad,” he says), his brother John tells the Tribune, “Tommy never lost it. He’s as fast as ever.” And Tommy proved that in his first race back, earning a second place finish in his class at the Sports Car Club of America’s Trans Am Series event at Brainerd International Raceway on July 5. He’ll be back in the driver’s seat (and on the winner’s podium, we’re betting) once again when the series resumes in Ohio on Aug. 15.
According to the Tribune, “Tommy knows it takes a team to win races, and a team to overcome cancer.” His Mayo Clinic roster included Bradley Leibovich, M.D., R. Jeffrey Karnes, M.D., Eugene Kwon, M.D., and Igor Frank, M.D., all of whom have a standing offer for driving lessons from their grateful patient. “It feels like we’re friends,” Tommy says of the team he credits with saving his life. “It’s very comforting to be at Mayo. They treat you like one of their own.”
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