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 thoughts on “Tom Brokaw: What It Means to Have Cancer”

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


    • 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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