August 16, 2008
Anna Christopher, NPR
CREATOR OF ONLINE CANCER COMMUNITY “MY CANCER,”
HAS PASSED AWAY AT THE AGE OF 53
TRIBUTE TO SIEVERS AT www.NPR.org
“I am reminded again that my membership in this club, something I never would have wanted, is what has kept me alive.” – Leroy Sievers, NPR’s “My Cancer,” June 27, 2008
August 16, 2008; Washington, D.C. – Broadcast journalist Leroy Sievers, who openly chronicled his battle with cancer in the “My Cancer” commentary, blog and podcast on NPR, and in the process built a massive online community of people whose lives have been touched by the disease, died last night at home in Maryland, at the age of 53. He is survived by his wife, Laurie Singer, and a legion of family and friends.
Over the past two years, Sievers wrote candidly about his ongoing battle with cancer on the daily “My Cancer” blog, and invited its online community – which grew to include thousands of readers and contributors – to share their comments and experiences. Sievers could also be heard in regular commentaries about living with cancer on Morning Edition and a “My Cancer” podcast.
The blog, which in the immediate future will continue to be written by Sievers’ family and friends, is available at www.NPR.org/blog/mycancer
Ellen Weiss, NPR’s Vice President for News, said of Sievers’ passing: “It is with deep and profound sadness that we learned today of the death of our friend and colleague, Leroy Sievers. For the past two years, Leroy shared his life with cancer on the air and online with passion, wit and a kind, brutal honesty that created a safe space for an open and candid dialogue about the disease. A natural storyteller, Leroy turned his battle with cancer into a truly remarkable story that will inspire all of us for years to come.”
In a message to the “My Cancer” community at NPR.org, Sievers’ longtime colleague and friend Ted Koppel, wrote: “Cancer was not in Leroy’s plans. But he turned his battle with cancer into the most dramatic, the most moving and the most important story of his life. He touched so many of you who are fighting your own battles. He inspired courage; not simply by what he wrote in his blog every day, but by who he was: larger than life while he walked among us, and destined to be even larger in our memories.”
Sievers was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001. In late 2005, the cancer returned in the form of a brain tumor and lung cancer. He detailed the subsequent chemotherapy treatments in a Morning Edition commentary in February 2006 that struck such a chord with listeners – those battling cancer and others – the decision was made to build a regular NPR series out of the commentaries and expand to the web. In late 2006, Sievers’ cancer attacked his spine. The cancer reappeared in his brain and appeared in his liver and other bones, in addition to his spine, just two months ago. He underwent several surgeries, eventually deciding to cease further treatment.
On its second anniversary, Sievers said of the “My Cancer” community he created: "The blog has taken on a life of its own. It has become a place of refuge, a rest stop on the long, difficult road that is cancer. We have made friends and lost friends on the blog. We have learned things from each other, things we never thought we'd need to know. …But if I’ve learned anything over the last two years, it’s that life with cancer is tough. I’ve learned something far more important, too. No matter what happens, we’re all in this together. None of us walk this road alone.”
He met many of his “My Cancer” friends for the first time in April 2007 in NPR’s studios, for a special dialogue about living with cancer on the news-talk show Talk of the Nation. He was again joined by the “My Cancer” community members and Elizabeth Edwards for an interview on Talk of the Nation on July 9, 2008.
A journalist for more than 25 years, Sievers worked at ABC News Nightline for 14 years, the last four as executive producer. He developed and produced the daily Nightline e-newsletter to viewers that built a following of nearly 100,000. He covered more than a dozen wars while at ABC News and during the years prior at CBS News, including Desert Storm, Rwanda, Somalia, Kosovo, El Salvador and Nicaragua. During the invasion of Iraq, Sievers was an embedded journalist with Ted Koppel and was also responsible for "The Fallen," Nightline's tribute to the service men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since leaving Nightline, Sievers had been a guest lecturer at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California, and traveled to Africa for Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group. He was most recently an executive producer at The Discovery Channel, where his conversations with longtime friend Koppel were the core of a three-hour primetime Discovery Channel special Living with Cancer that aired in May 2007.