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Blog for Hope - Sam Donaldson

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Sam Donaldson, a 37-year ABC News veteran, served two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC News from January 1998 to August 1999 and from 1977-1989, covering Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Mr. Donaldson appears on ABC NEWS NOW, the ABC NEWS digital network. His daily half hour show "Politics Live" is an unscripted dialogue with numerous guests and commentators discussing the top political news stories of the day. As a college student, Mr. Donaldson began his career in broadcasting at the age of seventeen by working for local radio stations in El Paso, Texas. Mr. Donaldson received his Bachelor's degree from Texas Western College and did graduate work at the University of Southern California.

The Cancer Club -- Spread the Word

I joined the Cancer Club in August of 1995, when a melanoma tumor was discovered in one lymph node in my right groin. This is a club that no one volunteers to join. There is no membership committee, no criteria for admittance that excludes anyone on grounds of race, religion, color, gender or national origin. No, all that is required is that you develop cancer and you are automatically enrolled.

Once in, there is important work for club members. We work to obtain more money for research into the causes, prevention and cures for cancer and for the alleviation of suffering from cancer.

But there is something else that those of us in the club can do. Let me tell you what happened to me.

After my diagnosis I told the people who worked with me at ABC News the facts. At that time, I headed the Washington unit of a program called Prime Time Live -- I was co-anchor with Diane Sawyer, who is based in New York. There were about fifteen people in the unit, and in the television business if a unit disappears – and this one certainly would if I disappeared – many of the people lose their jobs. So, I thought it only fair that everyone have an early warning that my future and perhaps theirs might hold some nasty surprises. That was on a Friday. By Monday the news had gotten in the newspapers.

On Monday morning I got a call from Senator Connie Mack (R-Fl.). I had met him, but since I wasn’t then covering the U-S Senate or Florida politics I did not know him well. When my assistant said he was on the line I couldn’t imagine why.

“Sam,” said Senator Mack, “I read that you have Melanoma. Let me tell you, six years ago I had a number of Melanoma lesions removed and I’m just fine today. You will be too.”

You can’t imagine what that call meant to me. Here was someone who had survived Melanoma for six years -- not only survived, but was thriving. I knew intellectually that a diagnosis of cancer was not an automatic death sentence, but to hear someone who had gone through what I was going through not only tell me that, but by his very existence prove it, was a wonderful thing.

Connie Mack is no longer in the Senate; he is Chairman of the Board of a great cancer center in Tampa, Florida, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. I have joined him in the work of the center and in fact, because of the bond we formed that Monday morning, I would follow him anywhere.

Those of us in the Cancer Club who are doing well can all do for the new recruits what Connie Mack did for me. When we learn of someone who has been recently diagnosed with cancer – whether we know them personally or not -- we can call them and say “look at me. I’ve got cancer, also, and here I am. Welcome to the survivors club!”

My melanoma tumor was removed in 1995, so I’m ten years along the road. When cancer strikes, it may always be stalking, but when I tell someone that I’m ten years out and still doing just fine, why, they get a lift that reading the cold tables of survival can never equal.

Cancer my not be contagious, but hope is, so, club members, let’s spread it!
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