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Journalist Leroy Sievers Dies

Leroy Sievers (courtesy of NPR)Leroy Sievers, who built a community of support and caring with his blog My Cancer, died Friday, August 16, 2008 at his home in Maryland. He was 53.  His wife, Laurie Singer survives him.

First diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001, he found out four years later that it had spread to his brain and his lungs.  Pushing his doctors for the worst-case scenario, they told him six months.  Shortly afterwards he aired the first of a series of commentaries on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. He wrote then,

I don’t have any great insight into death, but maybe I’ve learned something about life. It takes courage to get through life. The courage of doctors and nurses who can work magic with their hands, the courage of those keeping a lonely vigil at the bedside of a loved one. The courage of the ill, fighting with everything they have, not just to cheat death, but to live.

Koppel and Sievers in Iraq (courtesy of NPR)For more than 25 years, Sievers was a working journalist, covering conflicts and disasters all over the world.  After 10 years with CBS News, he worked for ABC’s Nightline for 14 years, going with Ted Koppel to Iraq in 2003 as an embedded reporter. His reporting won 12 national news Emmys, two  Peabody Awards, and two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards.

The NPR commentaries led to My Cancer, a blog which he updated every weekday, for more than two and a half years.  He welcomed comments from other people affected by cancer that led to a strong community of mutual support.  He talked frankly about cancer and about dying, but he also talked about living and the immense pleasure he took in life.  On Wednesday before his death, he watched the Beijing Olympics and wrote,

It’s these games that give us hope, too. It’s these little bits of normalcy that let us think that there’s hope for all of us.

For a few minutes, here and there, we’re not cancer patients. We’re spectators, rooting for our athletes.

I almost forgot how much fun that can be.

Asked what he got out of writing his daily blog, Sievers wrote,

A daily reminder that none of us walks this road alone. What could be better than that?

You are welcome to leave remembrances and thoughts on Leroy’s My Cancer blog.

Thoughts from Kate

I followed Leroy Sievers blog each day, sometimes joining the many people who sent comments.  He was so strong, so honest, never sugar-coating the tough road that he was facing.  But his humor and optimism and sheer desire to live every day encouraged me, as it did many others living with cancer.

I often passed a day’s My Cancer link with a particularly insightful message to people who followed the ACOR Colon Discussion List, wanting to give people who were struggling a bit of extra hope or courage.

Like me, Leroy’s colon cancer was related to an inherited genetic mutation.  During the time he wrote daily My Cancer blogs, his mother died.  She was 84, and like my own mother had battled colon cancer for many years.

And like my mother, she felt guilty for passing along that genetic link to her son. When she died, Leroy wrote,

The only thing we really argued about was the guilt she felt for passing on the genetic predisposition for colon cancer. No matter how many times I told her that was ridiculous, wrong, just plain silly, she still thought that somehow my cancer was her fault.

Leroy Sievers mother died March 28, 2008 almost a year after my own mother died from her last cancer.  My mom was 86.

Remembering his mother, he wrote,

I think I probably learned how to fight this disease by watching her. What better gift could she have given me?

I will miss her.

As usual, Leroy put my feelings into words perfectly.  We all have learned how to fight this disease by watching him.  And we will miss him.  Very much.

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One Comment;

  1. Deborah Kanter said:

    Leroy Sievers gave voice to the nuances that accompany cancer. By now we know that everyone’s cancer course will be different with different outcomes at different times. Sievers expressed his, the pain, the little joys, the hopes, and the daily living with an adversary that can take on its own persona, at times.

    Yet, something in his postings was universal, to me, anyway. Although so far I guess I am one of the fortunate, I can sense so many of his feelings; I have had them, also. I was there with him.

    When I teach Introduction to Journalism in the Fall and talk about community journalism, the blog, I will certainly refer students to Sievers.

    I will miss him.

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