A Talk with Sam Donaldson, Melanoma Survivor

Sam Donaldson speaking at Dana-Farber on surviving melanoma

“I don’t believe that optimism can cure cancer, but I do believe one’s general health around the edges can make a difference.”

Sam Donaldson, ABC News contributor, learned he had melanoma in 1997. Despite his diagnosis, he opted to stay positive and learn all he could about his disease. Now chairman emeritus of the foundation board at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), Donaldson also works on survivorship initiatives. He talked to us about what he learned, and shares some of his insights here:

Keep people in the loop. I owed it to my coworkers to tell them right away about my diagnosis, and that while the outcome was unknown; there was a very good chance it was going to be all right.

Become your own expert. Learn about treatments and what’s being done, and – by all means – have an optimistic view. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they are dumb ones, because sometimes those lead to the best answers.

Talk openly about your disease. For the first few months, my cancer was all I talked about, and people around me let me do so. You start to understand that everybody’s in the club to an extent, and they have their own cancers – or those of their families – to talk about.

Leave the negativity behind. I tell people that if a friend is diagnosed, listen to them and cheer them up. The best thing you can do is be supportive.

Collaboration is the key to a cure. Dana-Farber is, of course, one of the great cancer centers; I admire that they collaborate with other institutions. If everyone would cooperate, think of how much easier it would be to kill this enemy.


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