Tom Brokaw: What It Means to Have Cancer

Tom Brokaw (right) meets with Dana-Farber President and CEO Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD.

The world is divided between those who are sympathetic to their friends and family who have cancer and those who have cancer and are empathetic with each other, says Tom Brokaw, the former “NBC Nightly News” anchor. Brokaw, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in August 2013, shares his cancer story in the video below.

He advises new patients to be wary of Google searches, praises the work of cancer researchers, and recounts the physical and mental challenges he faced after being diagnosed. While he remained positive throughout the treatment, he admits he wasn’t prepared for the physical ordeal. “No one said to me it’s going to really knock you on your backside,” he says.


14 responses to “Tom Brokaw: What It Means to Have Cancer

  1. Thanks Tom!I was Recently diagnosed by the DFCI team with a rare form of lymphoma. I agree with everything you said, in particular the care and support of family and friends. I am just starting treatment and am doing my best to keep a positive attitude. I wish you all the best and many happy years to come. Lori Bird

  2. I was diagnosed in April of 2012, and so few people knew of it. When I heard of your diagnosis I felt more people will now understand . I had a sct at Dana-Farber in May of 2013. I am now 18 months out and look and feel pretty good. May you continue to good health. Be kind to yourself it has been a long journey. Rosemary Mahar

  3. Thank you, Tom Brokaw, for sharing with us. I have often wondered how you were doing, navigating the peaks and valleys of Multiple Myeloma. I was diagnosed in Sept. of 2008, and have been receiving treatment at DFCI. So far, so good! Just keep thinking positive thoughts and living life to the fullest!

  4. Thanks. I was diagnosed at a major cancer centerwith stage 3 myeloma and told I had at most 3 years to live. that was over 22 years ago. Each of the last 8 years I rode ny bike 328 miles in 4 days across Ohio in the American Cancer Society Pan Ohio Hope Ride. We raise funds so that cancer patients can stay free at one of 31 ACS Hope Lodges. I want all patients to have access to leading treatments that keep me physically active while dealing with an incurable blood cancer. Our story is available on the web. James Bond

  5. Much of our story is on Dana Farber’s site. Like Tom, exercise plays a huge part in my survival and in rebuilding my strength and stamina. I have had 4 stem cell bone marrow transplants and been in 6 clinical trials so far. Paul Richardson and his Dana team saved my life in 2002 in a clinical trial for an experimental drug, which was approved a year later and is now known as Velcade. I can be contacted at

  6. Thanks for your message Mr. Brokaw. I was diagnosed in 2009 and relieved my sct in 2010 at the Mount Sinai Cancer Center. It has been an interesting journey I am still able to work full time working with those in dire need, the homeless.
    I will you well on your journey.

  7. Mr. Brokaw – your experience sounds almost identical to mine. I was diagnosed in May 2011 at the age of 48. I had 9 compression fractures in my back and ended up in a wheelchair for a short time when I started treatment. Once I started chemo and radiation my back gradually got better. I had a stem cell transplant in February of 2012 and finally this past May I felt normal again. I still have back pain but I can finally hit a golf ball like I used to. I have been lucky and blessed as my treatment has gone well without any real complications. Dana Farber saved my life and I can’t thank them enough. In February I’m looking forward to celebrating 3 years in remission. Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. I am in remission at the five year mark from Ovarian Cancer. I also had Uterine Cancer and am presently being treated for Thyroid Cancer. It has been a long 7 years but I am still standing. I attribute this to DFCI and its team of amazing doctors, nurses, researchers, and staff to help me through all of the ups and downs. During this same time, I lost my husband to Glioblastoma Multiforme. My oldest daughter (then 21 years old) is now in remission with Hodgkins Lymphoma as well. She is now is Law School in Boston. All of us have been so blessed with amazing care at DFCI. There are miracles that happen here at DFCI. Cancer kicked my behind on many levels. I keep getting back up from it and thanking the Good Lord for all the blessings and strengths that have come with CANCER and its remission. I have prayed for you Tom for a long time. Believe…. embrace…. and give thanks for everything you experience with Cancer and its walk. Someday I would love to write a book about OUR experiences. I am sure you understand the need to share the walk. Bless you Tom. Always, AnnMarie Richard, R.N.

  9. Read the postings and they are inspirational..just started my journey and it threw me for a loop. Where did this com from? I’m not supposed to get cancer, ice been so healthy always. I exercise, ski , dance, very active. Why me???
    I consider myself lucky to be surrounded with competent & knowledgeable doctors here in LA. I follow their directions to the T. & hoping for the best. I am calm, serene & at peace with the process.
    Lillian F

  10. Mr. Brokaw-I am so happy to hear you are doing well in remission. I join your many fans praying for your continued good health. I know from personal experience how challenging and difficult a multiple myeloma diagnosis can be for you, your family and your friends. I understand because I lost my husband, Bill, to multiple myeloma in 2011, after a courageous 9 year battle. He was the love of my life with such a passion for living and a lifelong admirer of you. He taught me so much about how to experience life to its fullest and how to make every moment count. I have read much about your multiple myeloma journey and I know you are leaving much unsaid as my husband shared so many of your challenges. At one point, we nearly had to stop treatment for a very risky spinal surgery because his fractures were in danger of causing paralysis. We opted to proceed with treatment since my husband’s ability to fend off infection was very compromised. Like you, my husband and I were very open about our journey through a blog called “Carepages” sponsored by Mayo Clinic. His blog was redrightreturn and we started it as a means of communication to our vast network of family and friends during his treatment. However, it ended up giving us so much support, blessings and messages of love during the many ups and downs of his treatment. It became a living eulogy for him and he died knowing how much he was valued and loved by so many people.
    Bill lived for 5 years in a non-symptomatic stage of the cancer but agreed to participate in many clinical trials run by Mayo Clinic. I encouraged him to participate because of his young age at diagnosis (59). My biggest regret is as the driver of his care I did not use a louder voice when I felt the cancer was progressing and Bill was contradicting me. At some point, the hematologist in charge of his care, decided my concerns were not valid and went strictly by the numbers instead of his symptoms. I share this insight because, as caregivers, we walk a tightrope trying to balance respect for our loved one and having a more objective viewpoint of the changing physical capabilities of our spouse. Mentally, many issues arise in addition to the physical symptoms so don’t overlook this for the patient or the caregiver. Regrettably, Bill’s cancer was advanced by the time the “numbers” (you know the ones I mean) showed the advancement. Despite efforts to reverse course with a stem cell transplant in April, 2010, Bill passed in November 2011. Those final months were difficult but he never lost his sense of humor and desire to live until the very end when it was clear the treatment was impacting quality of life. Your thoughts on the importance of managing care because the doctors are terrific as individuals and so much is not communicated effectively between the various doctors responsible for your care. Mr. Brokaw, you are an icon, and as you have admitted have unlimited resources at your disposal and the intellect and support to manage care effectively so I feel confident, everything will be done to extend your quality of life. But to the general public who may read this comment, you MUST take control of your care regardless of your illness but especially with a complicated cancer such as multiple myeloma. Utilize all of the resources at your disposal and don’t no for an answer-be tenacious and find support among knowledgeable friends. I don’t know if my husband would still be here if the doctor had acted 10 months earlier when I raised the red flag. But I do know I would have less regret if I had INSISTED more tests were run or sought additional insight from our treatment centers such as Dana Farber or Anderson. God Bless you, Mr. Brokaw, and thank you for sharing your multiple myeloma journey. I pray the continued research developments will bring a good quality of life for you to enjoy the years ahead fishing with your grandchildren, building tree forts in Montana or just sitting around and telling stories that they will cherish forever. Make the most of these moments…your journalistic achievements are forever cemented in our minds and you gave so much of your time from your family throughout your career. We feel honored to have had the best during our generation! You are among the greatest and most genuine journalists of our time. Thank you for your being willing to share your insights. Debra Q

  11. Impressive article. In order to even begin to start researching your cancer, you need to gather some basic information about your situation. You need:The Medical Name of Your Cancer; The Stage of Your Cancer; Possibly the Grade of Your Cancer; Possibly Other Prognostic Factors. All you need to do to is to ask your doctor for the medical name of your cancer, the stage of your tumor, which will be a Roman numeral I-IV or “recurrent”, and maybe the grade, and also for the results of any special tests that were done on your tumor. When you ask, it’s also helpful to get copies of any operative reports, and any pathology or biopsy reports.

    If you do choose to do serious research into the technical literature for your cancer, it will be extremely useful to understand how cancer is classified and staged in general, as well as to understand the staging system for your particular cancer.

  12. Hi Joe,

    My mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma three weeks ago. The doctors have her on Revlimid, Velcade, and Dexamethasone with the goal for a tandem transplant once hopefully in remission. I read your comment that you are in remission.

    Is that what you did?

    God Bless and all the best to you. Thanks in advance.


    1. Friends
      Always think positive. Never give up hope & accept the reality
      I am giving you my exampale.1st time I had cancer in 2000.
      Second time once again I was victim of cancer in year 2011
      2013 they are ready to operate me for cancer they are ready to push me for surgery room for operation
      Last minute surgeon came & told me you don’t have a cancer so we postpone your surgery
      With my bad luck once again year 2015 I got news I had cancer they did surgery & remove cancer portion
      I am all right now & enjoying my retirement
      Friends always support the person those who go through this difficult time of their life

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