Riding the Roller Coaster

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The following is a commentary from Morning Edition, Sept. 6, 2006:

It's a lot like being trapped on a roller coaster. A really good one with lots of twists and turns and huge drops — the kind that make your stomach turn over. "It," in this case, is life with cancer. And the chemo makes your stomach turn over, too, but that's a different issue.

In some ways, the life of a cancer patient becomes predictable. You learn the rhythm of the chemo. The first day, five hours hooked up to a machine pumping poison into your arm — that's the start of the cycle. The third day, that's the first big drop on this ride. That's when the side effects hit hard. The nausea in the morning that you just have to fight through. The fatigue and so on.

And then it gets better over the next couple of days. The second week is easier, and the week off? That's a little bit of heaven.

But then every once in a while, they change the ride. New drops, new twists, new fears. That's the ride I went on a few weeks ago. We thought everything was going fine. I was down to just one drug, with fewer side effects, and we thought that would hold the tumors in place. But it didn't work. In just a short time, the cancer grew and new scans showed a new danger: a tumor on my spine. That's one of those drops that makes your stomach turn over.

So I'm back on the original chemo with something added: a new drug that shows some real promise — it might actually shrink the tumors. We won't know for a while, not until I take it for a couple of cycles and we do new scans.

As much as the twists and turns of this ride affect you physically, the ups and downs play havoc with your emotions, too. You look for hope where you can find it. You brace yourself for bad news. But when it comes, it still hits harder than you were prepared for.

When you can, you smile and reassure everyone in your life that the ride isn't too bad. Other times you can only admit that that last drop really got to you.

After a while, you forget what it was like to not be on the ride — that life on solid ground is over, at least for now. Your ticket is for a truly wild ride, and there's really no way to get off.

And no one else, as much as they want to, as much as they may need to, no one else can really ride along with you. They can watch; they can be supportive. But when you're up there on top of the ride, looking down on that huge drop in front of you, you're the only one in the car.

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My family is full of survivors and others who have been on the ride you are on and those who have been on the sidelines. I remember when my mom was diagnosed with melanoma after some delay and they told her she had to come in right away for treatment. Nonsense, I'll be in when my vacation is over. That was just a taste of her journey.

Sent by Kate Benson | 9:33 AM | 9-6-2006

Hi Leroy,

I just wanted to let you know how important your work is. My mom just died from lymphoplasmacytoid lymphoma a couple of weeks ago. She was 59, I'm 26. I took care of her the last four months, which were hard. There are no words for it really. We had honestly thought that she was going to get through it. Even when the doctors said that she had days to weeks, we didn't lose hope. In fact, her white blood cell count was below 2.0 for 6 months with no major infection. No matter what doctors say or how nurses treat you, don't lose hope. I'm not a religious person, but no one can tell you when you are going to die; only God knows that. In a screwy way, it's just comforting to know that someone out there is struggling through this too. Thank you.

Sent by Jessica Maddox | 9:35 AM | 9-6-2006

I haven't been on that ride — yet. But others in my family have. So often I feel that I'm just in line, knowing it will be scary but hoping to walk off the ramp after it's all over. I hope you walk off, shaky legs perhaps but still walking, with huge smiles on the faces of those whove watched and cheered.

Sent by Bonnie Chatfield | 9:37 AM | 9-6-2006

Every time I hear one of your segments it brings me back to the spring of 2004 when I was going through chemo for breast cancer. Your words always make me cry. Not because remembering the experience is painful or sad. In fact, I've written in my blog that cancer is a gift, of sorts.

It does give you a unique perspective that you so clearly captured today. People can be there for you, and support you, but only other people who have gone thru chemo really understand what it's like.

No, I cry because you capture so perfectly the emotions of the chemo experience. Emotions I couldn't express because I was spending too much time trying to convince myself and everyone around that I was fine and strong. I also cry for all my fellow cancer survivors who didn't have as easy a time as it as I did. As my friend Joanne Stone says, "I am humbled by those who have a harder time than I did." Thank you for your words and for sharing your experience.

Sent by Katie Paine | 9:59 AM | 9-6-2006

You are absolutely right. When it comes right down to it we all operate own "vehicle" ...not to diminish the love and support of family and friends, but everyone has to do for his or herself and that is a daunting reality. Your honesty is remarkable,your insights right on. I am rooting for you and all those who are in a similar roller coaster.

Thank you for sharing. I admire your courage.

Sent by Terry | 10:02 AM | 9-6-2006

I have been a cancer research scientist for 40 years and now I am a CEO of a small public company developing molecular diagnostic tests for cancer. In addition, I was diagnosed as having a very aggressive malignant prostate carcinoma and have dealt with surgery, drug therapy and radiation during the past six years. I have been on both sides of this disease and I deeply appreciate your comments. Each of us is on the ride alone yet we all share the same experience as human beings subject to common pain both physical and emotional eventually.

Sent by L. David Tomei | 10:04 AM | 9-6-2006

I recently lost my sister to lung and brain cancer. Any information or encouragement that people can find or receive is wonderful. Thanks for sharing your stories of hope and help.

Sent by Linda Wolford-Ulrich | 3:09 PM | 9-6-2006

I heard you on the news this morning and came in to read the blog. A very dear friend is going through what you describe. Do you have any suggestions about what is helpful — and what is not — for us, her good friends to do for her and her husband?

Sent by Beth | 3:13 PM | 9-6-2006

Folks...

Leroy's blog got me to thinking. I wrote a series of essays a few years back about some of my life experiences. One of them is entitled, Life Is An Exploding Cigar. It's about two weeks in my life fighting Hairy Cell Leukemia.

Would you like to read it?

Sent by Ralph Ercolano | 3:15 PM | 9-6-2006

For me, the story of Leroy Sievers is troubling. Reflecting a deeply troubling paradigm in the very practice of medicine itself. Sievers is right. None of us can feel what he feels. His spiral mostly spins only with hope, but little real control.

I have spent 50 years running an experimental research program in diet and health research, mostly focused on the etiology and control of cancer and most of it at Cornell University. Almost all of it was funded by the taxpayer based U.S. Cancer Institute (of NIH) and most was published in the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals. We learned that we could turn experimental cancer on and off, again and again, simply by changing diet. This finding prompted further research that fundamentally challenges how we define cancer, how we define nutrition and how we define our response to this disease. It also questions the very practice of medicine itself. We need not enter this spiral that spawns more fear than hope. We need not think of cancer as a black hole that penetrates our very soul.

I am deeply, deeply disturbed that we think of cancer and related diseases in black and white terms, that disease can only be resolved by the use of synthetic and harsh chemicals that abort our body's ability to restore health. If there are those who want to know more, I've written with my son, Tom, a book which expands on this theme and which has now become a national best seller. It is called The China Study. The book promotes no products nor sells anything. We only hope that it will stimulate some much needed new thinking, especially for people like Mr. Sievers.

Sent by T. Colin Campbell | 3:17 PM | 9-6-2006

I was starved for insight about what my friend who has been diagnosed with cancer might be thinking. Thanks for being on NPR and sharing the roller coaster ride story today. I feel better prepared to play my role as concerned friend.

Sent by Ronald C. Callen | 3:19 PM | 9-6-2006

Leroy

I look forward each day to your blog ... I have two cancers, CLL and liver, all from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. Despite the VA disclaimers, I contend that many of these cancers are a result of exposure to chemicals like Dioxin. Why else would they give me full service disability after 35 years?

This exposure may not be true for your colon cancer, as you mention. However, a friend of 57 has come down with lung cancer and remembers now receiving a notice years ago that the dust and paper lint from the printers he was working on could cause cancer.

No one in his immediate family has had cancer and now he is beginng his cancer and is beginning his roller coaster ride.

I have to deal with breathing problems from the CLL and pain/cancer from the liver.

They have been able to halt the progress but not make the cancers recede.

Sent by Ron Elliott | 3:41 PM | 9-6-2006

The roller coaster is pretty scary right now for us too. Our ten month old baby has Infantile Fibro Sarcoma. She was diagnosed when she was five months. It is hard to watch a baby go through rounds of chemo when they can't tell you anything about how they are feeling. We have to sit there and guess. Is she nauseated, is she tired because her counts have bottomed out, is she cranky because she hurts. These are the difficult issues that we face everyday. She has finished her chemo now and the tumor after surgery and the 12 rounds is gone. We just sit and wait for the next CAT scan and MRI, and pray that it is clear. Cancer is an awful disease, especially when it hits an infant.

Sent by Caryn Pitsenbarger | 3:44 PM | 9-6-2006

I heard your commentary on NPR today for the first time while driving in to work. When I got in, I immediately wanted to start reading your blog. I have a dear friend, 33, who has stage four melanoma, and I have a sister-in-law who is a breast cancer survivor and I think of them often and what they might be going through. I never know what is appropriate to ask, though they say they appreciate when people do ask things.

My friend's cancer is not something I should avoid, it is not the elephant in the room -? to do that would be insulting to her to pretend it isn't there, because I may not have the tools to know how to deal with it. It's not about me, of course. She has been fighting this for 3 years now, and your words, your work, has given me, and others, some insight for those of us who cant know what having cancer is possibly like.

Thank you for sharing your experience. I have become so much more aware because of my friend and my sister-in-law, though I feel helpless to do anything but say prayers; I can at least try to have a better understanding what you and she are going through.

Sent by Mark Lilley | 4:10 PM | 9-6-2006

I too am doing battle with cancer. My saga began in June 04. During a routine physical, my doctor noticed a mole on my back. He had it removed and analyzed. The biopsy showed it was melanoma. I underwent surgery to remove a section of skin around the mole. The biopsy showed this area to be free of cancer. I was told not to worry.

About six months later I noticed a small bump under my left arm. At this point I was under the care of the cancer team at the University of Michigan hospital. Another biopsy indicated the melanoma was on move and had taken up residence on my left lymph nodes. The surgeon removed forty-two nodes and found seven positive. FYI, seven is not a lucky number.

After the incision healed the Oncologist recommended a protocol of Interferon. The drug was administered by IV in a high dose five days a week for three weeks. It was supposed to be four weeks but they stopped treatment due to excessive toxicity in my liver. It was a hellish three weeks. I lost twenty percent of my body weight, had periods of insomnia, extreme fatigue, etc.

Following the high dose phase, I had to self-administer a lower dose of Interferon by injection three days a week. The side effects weren't quite as bad but I continued to lose weight and sleep.

After five months of Interferon, the doctors concluded that the drug did absolutely nothing to halt the spread of the disease. I now had spots on my liver, spleen and pancreas. I was categorized as a stage four. As you know there is no stage five.

The protocol was changed to a combination of chemo (Taxol and Carboplatin or tax and plax) once every three weeks and experimental pills that I took twice a day. I managed to put on some weight and felt a bit better. The first two CAT scans were encouraging. But I came up a cropper on the third. In fact the brain scan showed five spots on my brain. My protocol was changed for the third time. The new treatment consisted of a chemo pill taken orally for five days followed by two weeks off. Side effects include some rather nasty headaches and nausea. The effects last for a few days following treatment.

Since there is a remote possibility that the treatment will cause a stroke, I am mot allowed to drive. As a result I had to give up my business and retire. All this happened last week. Fortunately, I could afford to retire, however I had a real passion for my business and hated to give it up.

While there have been many moments of doubt, I never will give up my battle. I remain focused and positive about the future.

All the best to you. Please keep those commentaries on NPR coming.

Sent by Bill | 4:22 PM | 9-6-2006

Dear Mr. Sievers,

August 31 was the seven year "anniversary" from the moment when awakening from the anesthetic; my surgeon said the biopsy showed my breast lump was cancerous. I went home that afternoon to face, what is now, a whole different life. Adaptation to changes in all the major areas of my life i.e., marital status family roles health employment and all the subsequent smaller resulting lifestyle changes has not been easy. (Note, the large amount of understatement and light sarcasm contained in this statement (grin).)

Yes, cancer has been like a roller coaster ride. One which required every ounce of will power to stay on. I lost 18 pounds in 5 days, couldn't eat or drink anything for three days, experienced projectile vomiting, lost all my hair, and had a neutropenic fever after my first chemotherapy infusion. I betrayed myself walking in to the center for the next infusion.

And as bad as my own roller coaster of cancer treatment and fear of recurrence has been, it is and was harder to watch my family's ups and downs.

But for me the roller coaster metaphor is inadequate. The cancer diagnosis was the beginning of an array of falling dominos becoming an unstoppable, ever-growing, far-reaching wave of change.

Thank you for using your journalistic talents to give voice to an all-to-common human experience.

Sent by Lisa Taylor | 4:24 PM | 9-6-2006

My father died of cancer on 9/24/02. I was diagnosed with cancer on his birthday (7/19) of this year. I'll never forget the feeling of being told I have terminal cancer six days before my birthday (7/25). Since then, I have also been on a roller coaster — physically and emotionally. However, there has NEVER been a single moment when I wondered "Why ME?". I have never felt an ounce of self pity or indignation. That should not suggest that all of this has been easy for me to accept. In fact, I am more afriad of the treatment than the disease. Cancer is a creul affliction, but chemo is even more incidious. Despite all of the ups and downs, the twists and turns, I have come to realize that life for me will never be the same, but it can be better.

Sent by Michael Everett McGalin | 4:28 PM | 9-6-2006

My mother was dx with multiple myeloma and leukemia in June 2006. I told her about your blog when I heard it on the radio this morning. She always has listened to NPR. The roller coaster you describe helps us; her children understand what she is going through. She is very mad about having cancer because she never took any health risks. We have to deal with her anger somehow. We don't know how. Sometimes she acts like a drowning person trying to grab on to something. It is horrible.

Sent by Susan | 4:30 PM | 9-6-2006

Dear Mr. Sievers:

I was just reading your column on line and it made me think back on the days when my father had cancer. As I was reading your column, I see that you were diagnosed with colon cancer. My father was diagnosed with colon cancer approximately 15 years ago. At the time, his doctor gave him 18 months to live. It seems no one had ever lived any longer than that before with the type of cancer he had. I am proud to say he is alive and well today, we just celebrated his 66 birthday and he is cancer free. I can remember my father going throught the chemotherapy. It was awful for him. He hated it. He was on the chemo for five years and was ready to stop taking it, it was that bad. Then my mom found a doctor who saved him. The doctor is Dr. Paul Sugarbaker. He is in Washington DC. If you have not spoken with him, I would reccomend you contact him. Here is his Web site. He may not be able to help you, but I hope he can.

I hope this infomration is helpful and I hope you receive the same results that my father received. Good luck and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Sent by Charles Ervin | 4:32 PM | 9-6-2006

Your analogy of your life with cancer and that of a roller coaster ride is the most vivid account I have heard. It hit me on the head, and I realize how much those of us living without cancer take for granted our life on the ground. Thank you.

Sent by Laura | 4:36 PM | 9-6-2006

Thank you for sharing your wild ride with us. As a breast cancer survivor I know what it is to sit bolt upright in bed and let the fear in. You always make me stop whatever I am doing and remember. You are sharing with more people in more ways than you can ever know.

Sent by Carol | 4:38 PM | 9-6-2006

The adage about the teacher appearing to the student at the right time fits this commentary perfectly. I have been on the roller coaster since June 2005 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After working full-time (teaching) during chemo and radiation, I have decided to take a year off to really recover my health. Despite all of the side effects of both types of treatments, I worked to prove that I could beat cancer. When I felt I had, I believed that I was now free to work on my health. Everyone has an individual path to walk. Mine now seems to have an upward slope.

Sent by Robin Schneider | 4:39 PM | 9-6-2006

I appreciate this insight since I have just been diagnosed with a malignant tumor in my lung. It is lung cancer and although I have not received the full prognosis, I know what's coming. Thanks for the heads up. I'll try and keep you informed of my ride. Right now, I haven't jumped on board yet.

Sent by Marcus | 4:45 PM | 9-6-2006

I don't know what your primary tumor is but regarding your mets to the spine, I recommend you check out one alternative "robotic radiosurgery" which has been used in over 1500 patients.

Please go to www.cksociety.org or do a literature search of P Gerszten from the Univ of Pittsburgh or F Henderson from Georgetown.

The technology was invented by a neurosurgeon at Stanford — John R. Adler, MD

Any questions please feel free to e-mail me.

Sent by Raymond Schulz | 4:47 PM | 9-6-2006

Hi Leroy,

Your words are poetic. They reminded me that my father went through something similar (although everyone experiences it differently) a few years ago. He wrote and published a book of poems on his battle with lymphoma, and named it after the room where he got is radiotherapy treatments, Cobalt 3: Poems. Unfortunately, he refuses to do readings for other sufferers and survivors because it was too tough for him to relive over and over again. You might want to take a look at it if you get the chance, especially for insight into the loneliness of the battle, and ways to deal with it.

Sent by Jonathan Roberts | 4:49 PM | 9-6-2006

I have moments every day when I ask "Why me? But I would rather it be me than my sons or my husband or my brother or my nieces or anyone else for that matter. I know that this cancer is forcing me to look at my life less selfishly, less inward, less egocentric. The treatment that is involved with cancer is very selfish, very inward and very egocentric since it involves not only the patient but everyone whose lives touch upon his or hers. Changing eating habits, lifestyles, even the way a patient looks impacts their loved ones and realizing this, I know that I must get past myself and see how I can turn "Why me" into "let me".

I was helping my husband trim a tree in the front yard and after looking up for about five minutes, the area of my neck that had been resected began aching with a vengeance. I had to drop my head down to my chest and massage that part of my neck. My husband saw me and asked if I was okay. I said that my neck was getting stiff and he said to me, "I forget that you had that surgery because you don't usually say anything about it. I'm glad that you let me know that you still hurt so I can take care of you."

In any situation, anyone can ask "Why Me?" and never get answers. Maybe that's why we keep asking.

Prayers and thoughts go with all of us.

Sent by Emily | 4:51 PM | 9-6-2006

Hi Leroy, I was sorry to hear about your ride and everything you say is true. However, there is always hope if you are determined to win the battle. In addition I have found that acupuncture can cure cancer problems. I would like to go into more detail if you are interested in finding out more about this avenue. Using Eastern and Western medicine is the best option. Remember give it your best shot as early as possible because there are no awards for coming in second place. Good luck — I am with you and will pray for you and your family. Feel free to email me if you like.

Sent by Rich Morgese | 4:53 PM | 9-6-2006

Leroy,

Auwe! (Hawaiian expression of grief or pain). My heart goes out to you as you battle this disease. Many have found a prescription which has only positive and pleasant side effects here.

Sent by John Trusdell | 4:55 PM | 9-6-2006

Thanks, I really enjoy your writings and can see myself in them; they have really helped me work through some issues more clearly. My roller coaster ride all started last week Friday.

Last Friday I was at week 15, reporting for treatment five of an 18 week six treatment cycles of Alimta, when I told my doctor "I have been coughing up a little blood." We had first discovered I even had the lung cancer when I was "coughing up a little blood."

My doctor immediately stopped everything and ordered an x-ray. The x-ray was inconclusive so she ordered up more test, blood work, a Cat Scan, a visit to a Pulmonary Doctor (for the following Tuesday) and no chemo treatment for that day. I thought, "No treatment this can't be, you'll be messing up my schedule and the cancer may sneak back while we are resting." In my head I was screaming "No you can't send me home yet, I haven't had my treatment." Then the roller coaster reached the bottom of the drop, my stomach did turn over but yet by this time my head could accept what was happening so I could calm down and go home. I had all of the test yesterday and have a follow up with my doctor tomorrow, so now the coaster car is climbing again, but this time I will be better prepared for the fall.

Sent by Les Martin | 2:03 PM | 9-7-2006

Hello Leroy,

I have read your blog before but hearing your voice today was inspiring and I wanted or needed to comment.

My dear friend, Mr. Jones has your link on his blog and after reading his, I read yours. Oddly familiar. What is so difficult is that I don't know you at all but I know my friend's roller coaster ride. He's in the front seat — and I feel like I'm in the back seat watching him struggle to hang on and I cant get to the front to put his safety belt on.

Fight on Mr. Sievers!

Sent by Frank Chiarella | 2:12 PM | 9-7-2006

Hi, I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your pieces on NPR and how I hope you kick that cancers ass so I can continue to enjoy you. All the best and God bless you.

Sent by Jerry | 2:29 PM | 9-7-2006

Hang in there, Leroy. I was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 1980 and was given a 20% chance of living for two years. I had two years of chemo, Methyl CCNU and 5FU, and my experiences were almost identical as yours. I finally came to the realization that LIFE, whatever it is, is what you do until you die and it is important to make good use, what ever that means to YOU, of every single minute that you are given. Those who predicted my death are ALSO under a death sentence as are well all. Only ONE, that I am aware of, has ever defeated death and I give credit to HIM for my survival with some deference to those who predicted my imminent demise. DO NOT WAIT. DO the important things NOW. THAT applies to everyone, regardless of their health. Reject the pity and enjoy the love.

BTW: the doctors told me that my chemo would make me sterile. I had two additional beautiful children after that. The Lord has given me twenty-six additional years so far and I thank him. YOU can do it, too.

Sent by John Miller | 2:31 PM | 9-7-2006

Thank you for sharing your struggle so frankly. It will help others with their ilness. My wife had malignant melanoma fifteen years ago. It was a Stage three. She chose to have it removed, took no chemo and is still well.

Sent by R. M. Chandler | 2:34 PM | 9-7-2006

Leroy,

I am a cancer survivor! I beat it using all natural treatments. NOBODY needs to give in to cancer and let it consume them. I had cancer throughout my body and I was able to stop the ravages and I am now on the healing side of my ordeal both emotionally and physically. I take supplements to assist in my stamina limitations and I do emotional release work to gain some sort of a balance that I can live with. As you know nothing is the same once you face life and death. You find out who is really there for you and who isn't, or in some cases never was.

Sent by Michael Jamison | 2:37 PM | 9-7-2006

I cannot begin to imagine how it is to actually be on the cancer roller coaster, but know that being the caregiver of a family member with cancer, the roller coaster we ride is a different yet equally as frustrating. I often wish this whole cancer thing would just go away, which I know it wont. I read a post on here that spoke of how cancer makes her look at her life less selfishly, less inwardly, and less egocentric. Cancer has made my family member more of those things. I have discovered that being a caregiver not only subjects you to the daily torture of watching someone you love fight the unseen evil eating away at their body, but also subjects you to the onslaught of the emotional and verbal abuse from the cancer victim themselves.

I pray that one day no one will have to endure the roller coasters of cancer and caregiver.

Sent by J.C. | 12:36 PM | 9-8-2006

I work for the House of Representatives in Baton Rouge, La., and found out this June (on my birthday!) that I have breast cancer. I got to work Wednesday morning and didn't get out of my car until I listened to your whole commentary. What you describe is exactly how I feel. I've gotten great support from family, friends, and coworkers, but no one understands the chills of this really scary ride like another cancer patient. What you describe is exactly how I feel. Thank you so much for this commentary. I felt better all day long because of it.

Sent by Terry deBen | 12:46 PM | 9-8-2006

My 26-year-old son received a stem cell transplant for Hodgkin's in March. As a mom, and a contolling pediatric nurse to boot, how do I support him when I get scared? You are so right, he has been sick for three years and it is the worst ride we have ever been on. I wish you well and will keep up on your progress.

Sent by Lupe Mirelez | 12:54 PM | 9-8-2006

Thank you so much for the description of the rollar coaster ride. I hope it helps me be more sensitive to people who have cancer and other diseases.

Sent by Joan Curtis | 1:01 PM | 9-8-2006

Dear Mr. Sievers,

I heard your essay today, 9/6/06 and wanted to forward information that may be of interest to you in curing your cancer. I have been studying Dr. Sherry Rogers' work on curing cancer with nutrition. Of particular interest was a story she related about a dentist (Dr. Kelly) who cured his pancreatic cancer by using enzyme therapy along with other alternative methods. It was fascinating to learn how our bodies can heal themselves with the right vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in the right balance for each person. I recommend her work to you. Dr. Rogers is an environmental medicine physician and has been in this field for 35 years. She lectures all over the world and holds her practice in Syracuse, N.Y. You can contact her through Prestige Publishing to see all the works she has provided with excellent resources. She also does phone consultations.

I work with people with cancer so study as much as I can to find information that may help my clients. I am so impressed with Dr. Rogers work. Also I have been reading a book by Dr. Patrick Quillan, another environmental medicine research physician who works with nutrition to beat cancer. I would be happy to share more information with you about what I have learned to add to your tool chest of information on overcoming this most voracious disease.

I wish you the best and healthy success in all your endeavors.

Sent by Krystle Shapiro | 1:05 PM | 9-8-2006

Hi Leroy: I think that you will remember me from KALX days. I heard your broadcast this a.m. on NPR and I was shocked. I am happy that you're sharing all your ups and downs in such a forthright manner.

I too am a cancer survivor of a rare type of pancreatic cancer which was diagnosed four years ago with a life-threatening tumor which was surgically removed. I have had two recurrences since but am managing to live normally and with strength until I have to deal with it again, if I have to deal with it again.

I wish you the very best in your struggles and know that you have one more person rooting for you.

Sent by Cathy Quon | 1:07 PM | 9-8-2006

I have proudly watched your career since we worked together at KTVU all those years ago.

I want to wish you strength and let you know what a powerful impact I suspect your commentaries are having, particularly on men in their 50s who have never a colonopscopy. Mine is scheduled for a week from Friday.

I also want to send love and prayers from Bill Moore and Dominic Bonavolonta who both work with me here at Ohlone College. And from my wife Jayne Garrison, who reminds me of how excited we both became on that day, 27 year ago when we watched the San Francisco 49ers beat Dallas and qualify for their first Super Bowl. Anyway, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Sent by Gary Kauf | 2:42 PM | 9-11-2006

I heard your commentary for the first time today on NPR — I always listen as I drive the 100 miles to work each day. I am a psychiatrist and I have a geriatric psychiatric unit in a small town in Tennessee. Caring for the elderly and infirm for so many years has always been a challenge. How do you find hope, happiness and satisfaction when death is near, and you have lost all that you held dear? Your family, your friends and in many ways, yourself — your physical self, at least. I always wondered what it must be like — now I almost know.

Three years ago I was robust, "in shape", young for my age (now 59). I ran five miles a day, worked out, etc. Then I started feeling, well, out of sorts. To make a long story short, one evening I got the phone call. "It's myeloma. I'm sorry." Man, don't you hate it when they say, "I'm sorry?" I felt like I had gotten my "pink slip" and now I will be just working out my time. "Treatable, not curable," they said.

My niece/goddaughter asked me to speak at chapel for her high school. She told the dean that her uncle "had a message." I wonder what it is. "It is something about your cancer," he told me. I have 19 minutes to speak. 19 minutes. What to say about having cancer in 19 minutes? What it's like to have it? What have I learned in 59 years? The meaning of life? Am I scared? What about heaven? S—-! How do I distill this experience into 19 minutes? If you have a clue, let me know.

My last (second) stem cell transplant was only minimally effective, so I will have to start a "new" drug. It's supposed to be really "effective." Sound familiar? Doc said I may have two years left to work. That is where I find my greatest solace. Helping my old folks. Altruism, one of the "healthy" defense mechanisms. Works for me. Good luck.

Sent by Jerry Slay | 3:04 PM | 9-11-2006

The roller coaster is a good analogy for you. Except that in reality it is more like a spaceship with you controlling your own direction through time and space. I got cancer ten years ago and I plan on living another fifty or so. It amazes me how people refuse to take control of their lives — by doing so you do a disservice to yourself and your minions. Why, why do you continue to do this? I have sent you links before to books and websites that heal. All it takes is a little initiative and investigative journalism. Is that asking too much? Fifty years ago the FDA declared war on nutrition — don't believe me — spend an hour online and look it up! Until then you are merely another victim and a passenger riding on a multi-trillion dollar illusion. The price is your life. Is it worth it?

Sent by Chris McVay | 3:58 PM | 9-11-2006

Thanks so much for your blog and commentaries on NPR, Mr. Sievers! I can't tell you how very much I appreciate them.

Thanks to Dr. T. Colin Campbell for writing!! I'm now eager to research his important work, documented in The China Study. (Also watched an extremely enlightening video clip under News on www.TheChinaStudy.com) Highly recommended for anyone!

As I write this, my younger brother checks into the hospital for another week-long session of Chemo Camp (as he calls it) for his aggressive melanoma.

Like you, he is upbeat and inspiring in his approach. I'm grateful for and in awe of his and your attitudes.

Like Chris McVay, I am *very* frustrated that he doesn't seem interested in even checking out info about diet and nutrition to complement his treatment. It's not like it's dangerous or risky. I can only help as far as I can see. But I'm not him or you.

So what can we do? Support and appreciate one another. Make the most of every day. Enjoy the September sunshine and practice gratitude.

My brother is doing it his way. You are doing it your way. Chris and I would do it another way, but lucky for us, we don't have to... at least not now.

Sent by Susan Fraser | 11:09 AM | 9-13-2006

Sent by Gargi Upadhyaya | 4:13 PM | 9-13-2006

I was struck by your powerful description of undergoing chemotherapy. My mom was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, 62, non smoker, in every way this disease is overwhelming. Thank you for taking the time to bring your plight to the NPR listener's attention.

Sent by Taylor Ligon | 4:15 PM | 9-13-2006

Your quote: "Can it be that cancer is so different, so complex, so difficult, that there will never be a cure?" is wrong.

Cancer is not different than any other disease, (except that it comes in multiple forms) it is NOT complex, it is probably more simple (when we actually do discover that cure) once known, than most other diseases.

There is a cure, we just have not found — or I should say discovered it yet. Aren't we ever so much closer than just a few years ago?

There is an enormous amount of power in our words and the visions that we hold, so please hold onto this positive view. I look to my 103 year old aunt and my 57 year old sister who have survived 50 years and 17 years cancer free (respectively.)

I know, my cancer is caused by genetics, culture, personal decisions and psychological factors combined. I am going to do my part to be proactive in whatever ways I can. I encourage you to e-mail me if you need to — in order to help you along your way.

Thanks again for the blog — been wanting to start one of my own someday soon!

Sent by Kate Mulligan | 4:21 PM | 9-13-2006

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