NPR logo I Am Not My Disease

I Am Not My Disease

Getting cancer turned out to be a good career move for me. That's a joke I've told a number of times, but it does have the ring of truth to it. Because of my disease, I have this blog, the podcasts, the commentaries. And I have a unique and valuable forum to talk to all of you. I wouldn't have this if I wasn't sick.

Writing these pieces every day is an interesting experience. I love to write and I think that I do have some things to say. Actually, I've been given the opportunity to say the things that so many cancer patients have been thinking all along. A privilege and a responsibility.

But it also forces me to face my cancer every day, to think about what it has done to my life. But I refuse to let that be my only identity. I'm more than my disease.

I've had a fairly successful career as a journalist. I had the privilege of working with some of the best in the business. I was able to see and do things that very few people ever get to see and do. Running Nightline was one of the highlights of my life. But just for fun, the other day I Googled myself. Oh c'mon, we've all done that, right? And so many of the entries now have to do with cancer.

And I have probably gotten a greater response to the My Cancer project than just about anything else I have done as a journalist. I've heard from old friends with whom I had lost touch — some, for decades. I have heard from current friends. And I have heard from strangers, from all of you, whose lives have so much in common with mine.

I think I've said before that when I had cancer the first time, when I had my surgery and pretty much thought I was cured, I never liked to use the term "survivor." That wasn't who I was. I wasn't going to let the cancer take over my identity. I was too busy for that. I was doing too many things.

But now, in spite of my best efforts, I may have lost that fight. In the end, I may very well be best remembered as a cancer victim. That's strange to me. I don't think I like it very much. The cancer has changed just about everything. My life, my career, my body. But aside from that, I am still, at the core, the same person I was before. Maybe a little wiser, but the same person.

And so I guess this is the time to say something that I sometimes feel like shouting out loud. I hope I speak for all of you out there who have this disease when I say, "I am not my disease." We, all of us, are much much more than that.