Tom Brokaw, an award winning journalist and best-selling author, was diagnosed in 2013 with multiple myeloma. This disease is a malignancy of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. At age 74, Tom presented to his doctor with puzzling progressive back pain and eventually was diagnosed with this uncommon form of cancer. Brokaw describes in his memoir, “A Lucky Life Interrupted,” the challenges of facing a cancer diagnosis and living with a treatable but incurable disease. In this honest and inspirational book, he comes to grips with his own mortality but also reflects on his life and what has meant the most to him. He graciously admits to denial, emotional liability and his perilous journey towards acceptance of his condition. He also describes the significant progress made in treating this disease with new drugs and stem cell transplants. Like many cancers, it is becoming more of a chronic condition. Although he admits in some places to having thoughts like, “Damn this cancer. How dare it interfere with such a glorious time?” What is it like to feel perfectly healthy and then have one’s life come to a screeching halt? (“adventures curtailed” as Tom describes). Throughout the book, he shares gratitude for the good days, increasing strength and how cancer is no longer a 24-hour presence on his mind.
At almost 80, Tom Brokaw is alive and well. Although he admits to moving “into the neighborhood of life where there are few long-term leases,” he ends his moving memoir by sharing the simplicity he now craves: “I want more mornings at the seaside in a white terry cloth robe, a large mug of black coffee made with freshly ground beans . . . Meredith near, reading aloud a quirky item from The New Yorker or an email from a grandchild.” His foremost message is to try and fill every waking moment pursuing especially the things that are worthy of the precious time we have left.
This article is from the Fall 2018 issue of Life to the Fullest, the newsletter from the Swedish Cancer Institute dedicated to those with cancer, cancer survivors, and their family members and caregivers.