The Uncertainty of Cancer

February 24, 2015
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Andrew with Dick and Carole Crew

Andrew with Dick and Carole Crew near Seattle just before Dick’s stem cell transplant in Summer 2014

Andrew with Dick and Carole Crew

Andrew with Dick and Carole Crew near Seattle just before Dick’s stem cell transplant in Summer 2014

Just two weeks ago, I wrote of losing an old television colleague to liver cancer. From diagnosis to death was less than two months. Today I am writing about the death this past weekend of another old friend and mentor, Dick Crew, who fought diffuse large B-cell lymphoma for about a year. While I have been so fortunate to live with two chronic blood cancers, my friends’ versions of malignancies took them much too quickly and with conditions where we have made less progress. Sadly, despite progress against some cancers, these very heterogeneous diseases remain formidable foes, and we must always be reminded of that.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my friend Dick and how he made a difference to me and you.

I am writing this today from Charlotte, North Carolina where I worked as a television news and feature reporter 35 years ago. It was Dick who gave me my ticket to bigger things in national television and relocation to San Francisco in 1980. Dick was national executive producer of the PM/Evening Magazine television series that was zooming up in the ratings and proliferating from just five television stations to being featured on 110. My new job was to work with Dick and a small group of great producers to choose what America would see on that program every night and how to promote the stories on the program in a way that millions would want to watch.

Dick was my mentor in underscoring that viewers want to connect with stories about real people who have hopes, dreams, emotions and relationships that are key to their lives. That storytelling is what I learned from Dick. And it is central to what we do at Patient Power.

Dick also was much more thoughtful and organized than I am. He was an enormous help in organizing and positioning the book I wrote with Mary Thomas a few years ago, The Web-Savvy Patient. Dick had earned his PhD in communications and became a university professor. His strategic thinking really helped me, and I will never forget it.

It’s tough to lose a mentor and friend who you have known for 36 years, someone who enjoyed your wedding, someone who lived in three of the cities you lived in. Our lives criss-crossed again and again.

And it’s tough to see how variable the cancer journey can be. We talk so much about people doing better. But that was not Dick’s journey. Modern medicine let him down, as we still have so far to go.

For me, it just reminds me how we need to celebrate every day whether we are living with a diagnosis or not, and to cherish the lessons you get from friends. I know Dick’s teachings live on in what I do every day.

Wishing you and your family the best of health!

Andrew