Dr Oz: Tom Brokaw ‘A Lucky Life Interrupted’
Dr Oz shared a clip of Tom Brokaw “eloquently signing off” from his last broadcast as news anchor of NBC Nightly News. He was a dedicated news man for more than 50 years and now he’s opening up about his 16-month-long battle with cancer, which is now in remission. Dr Oz welcomed Tom Brokaw to his show.
Tom shared that he’s doing a lot of the things he used to do, but the type of cancer he had, multiple myeloma, attacks the bone marrow, so he still has issues with some bone damage in his back. He said, “To put it bluntly, aging sucks.” Once Tom was diagnosed with cancer, he began keeping journals, which became the basis for his book A Lucky Life Interrupted.
Tom shared that being a journalist and seeing so much grief helps you develop an intuitive way of getting through life. He said he grew up in a working class family in South Dakota, and never took his life as a journalist in New York for granted. He said he was diagnosed with a serious disease but he had access to the best doctors and the ability to afford it all. He also had a great support system and said, “You cannot understand what cancer means until it hits you or your family.”
Dr Oz: What Is Multiple Myeloma?
When Tom he had bad lower back pain and couldn’t figure out why, he chalked it up to aging. His primary care physician looked at his blood work and within three hours diagnosed him with multiple myeloma. He said the cautionary tale is that if men his age get a backache, they should get a blood test rather than just seeing an orthopedist, because it strikes men especially in their mid-60s.
Dr Oz explained that multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood in the bone marrow. The myeloma cells drive our immune system, so when they’re not function correctly it can cause all kinds of problems. Dr Oz explained that inside the bone, bad cells crowd out the good cells. Tom explained that in his case, in his pelvic area he had a hole and his spine had four compression fractures which were right at his disks. Tom said he has to compensate for his spine, and his muscles in his back are compensating for that, causing him a lot of back pain. He said he learned that water therapy is the best thing for his spine.
Dr Oz: Tom Brokaw Defying Odds & Optimism
Dr Oz pointed out that when Tom Brokaw began his career, the survival rate for multiple myeloma was half what it is now. Tom said you have to be an informed patient, and Dr Oz pointed that if he researched myeloma, one of the first words he would see is “incurable.” Tom said those are “daunting odds” and although it’s incurable, it’s treatable. He said Ronald Reagan was an optimist just like him and he would tell the story of the little boy who woke up on Christmas morning to a pile of horse poop under the Christmas tree. The little boy began digging through it, saying “there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere.”
Tom said that’s how he’s gone through life because he’s had difficult times, but always thought it would turn out okay. His wife would constantly remind him that no matter what, they have each other. Tom said community is incredibly important for those fighting disease.
Dr Oz: How Did Cancer Change Tom Brokaw?
Dr Oz then wanted to know “how cancer changed Tom Brokaw.” Tom said rather than asking “why me” the better question is “why not me?” He said he doesn’t take anything for granted and his tolerance for people he doesn’t care about has gone to zero. He said he focuses on the people he truly cares about and that’s who he wants to spend his time with.
Dr Oz: What’s Next For Tom Brokaw?
Dr Oz asked Tom Brokaw to read a few sentences from his book and he shared: “It is not enough to rage, rage against the dying of the light. It is also time to quietly savor the advantages of a lucky life and use them to fill every waking moment with emotional and intellectual pursuits worthy of the precious time that we have. Life. What’s left? Bring it on.”
As for what’s next, Tom said he’s going to write more, which he really enjoys. Tom also said having grandchildren is one of life’s great rewards. He has four granddaughters and a grandson, and each are fascinating and different. He joked that they all call him Tom because they’ve seen him on television.
Has Tom Brokaw’s battle with cancer inspired you?