When Tom Brokaw was 19, his parents were quite worried how he’d turn out and the woman who became his wife sent him packing. Luckily, she didn’t — during the journalist’s recent bout with incurable cancer, he depended on her to get through.
In an interview with Parade, Brokaw discussed how in 2013, he found out his chronic back pain was a blood cancer, specifically the treatable, but incurable multiple myeloma, USA Today reported. Tom has written about the experience in a new book, A Lucky Life Interrupted.
The title is fitting, since the veteran newscaster has enjoyed a life-time of fantastic luck: Wonderful parents and a solid upbringing, opportunities that led him into journalism and, ultimately, put him in the middle of history — from Watergate to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He’s won every broadcast journalism award they make, traveled the world, and written six bestsellers.
Bad luck was bound to catch up with Brokaw.
“The conceit of a long, lucky life is that bad things happen to others … and if you think of it as a gift that never goes away, you can abuse it.”
That’s happened when he was 19. Tom hitchhiked across the Midwest after dropping out of college, worried his parents half to death, and angered Meredith — who later became his wife — so much that she wrote Tom a letter telling him “you’re going nowhere and … nobody can understand what the hell is going on with you,” Tom said.
Cancer may have broken his lucky streak, but Brokaw is far from broken, even though he wasn’t prepared to face his own mortality, People added. But there’s an upside to cancer — the diagnosis gave Brokaw something in common with other people — normal people, who took an interest in his life and health.
“Cancer has given me a dose of humility. I’m much more empathetic. It’s a club I would rather not have joined, but it is a club,” he said.
Now 75, Tom is on the path to getting back in shape, and back to taking advantage of every exciting adventure that may cross his path. Because in his opinion, that’s where luck comes from — one’s own will.
“My motto is ‘It’s always a mistake not to go.’ So I jump on the airplane, try new things—sometimes I get in way over my head, but then I think, I’ll work my way out of this somehow … The energy is operating at full throttle all the time … To be lucky you’ve got to go out and take advantage of it.”
Brokaw’s latest book comes out next month, and so far — of course — it’s getting great reviews. But for a man who is always turning the camera on others, putting the spotlight on himself is a little odd.
“It’s touchy. I didn’t want to overplay the position I find myself in,” he said. “One of the advantages of being a national journalist of some recognition is that you come across high profile people and many become your friends. I tried to (write about) it in a tempered way. We don’t play the celebrity business in our family.”
[Photo Courtesy Stephen Lovekin, Bryan Bedder/Getty Images]