Understanding the Suffering of Others Through Cancer
- Today co-host Hoda Kotb, 57, is a breast cancer survivor, so when she’s interviewing guests like fellow survivor and writer Delia Ephron, 77, about the heavy topic of cancer, she can certainly empathize.
- Delia is a leukemia survivor, and her equally famous sister, Sleepless in Seattle writer/director Nora Ephron, sadly lost her own battle with the disease in 2012 at 71 years old.
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults, but is rare overall, accounting for only about 1% of all cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
Delia is a leukemia survivor, and her equally famous sister, Sleepless in Seattle writer/director Nora Ephron, sadly lost her own battle with the disease in 2012 at 71 years old.Read More
“Nora had myelodysplastic syndrome, and it leads, almost inevitably, to a fierce leukemia,” the NYC native told Kotb of her late sister’s illness. “The only thing that can cure it is a bone marrow transplant … at the time they tested me to see if I was a match for her,” she continued, and shared that she then found out her bone marrow was “a little wonky” and was sadly unable to be used.
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So now, not only did Delia have to worry about her sister, she was also worried about her own health during that difficult time.
Things took another devastating turn a few years after Nora passed. Delia lost her husband of thirty years, screenwriter Jerome Kass, to prostate cancer at 78 years old.
The You’ve Got Mail co-writer wound up finding love again, and then quickly after her good fortune, she suffered another blow: She now had leukemia.
“I thought I had fallen into my own romantic comedy,” Delia recently shared of her life imitating her art. She said that a New York Times op-ed piece she wrote about grief “caught the attention of Peter [Rutter], a Bay Area psychiatrist, who reached out and reminded me (even though I had no recollection) that we had shared a few dates fifty-four years before, set up by my sister Nora.”
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She continued with her bittersweet love story, which truly does sound like a tale for the big screen. “After several weeks of exchanging emails and sixties folk songs, we fell crazy, utterly, in love. But, four months later, I discovered that I was diagnosed with AML, a fierce leukemia.”
Delia and Peter are now married, and picking up the pieces after Delia’s quiet cancer battle.
Delia’s memoir, Left on Tenth, tells the story “of how the power of love and medicine can triumph over illness and bring a second chance at life.”
Learning About Leukemia
Leukemias are cancers that start in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. When these cells become leukemic, they stop maturing properly and grow out of control. Eventually, they spill into the bloodstream. Because they are essentially abnormal white blood cells, they prevent your blood from doing normal things like fighting infections, keeping your energy up and preventing excessive bleeding.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults, but is rare overall, accounting for only about 1% of all cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
Leukemia specialist Dr. Nicole Lamanna, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, tells SurvivorNet how these cancers affect the blood.
“Blood cancers in general affect different parts of the white blood cell count, which we need in a very basic way to help fight this infection,” she explains. “Your blood elements do lots of things. One is to keep energy. One is to fight infection. Two are to help with clotting or to prevent patients from bleeding.”
So leukemias in general “impair your normal blood elements’ ability to do all the things they’re supposed to do.”
Hoda’s Breast Cancer Battle
Kotb was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2007 when she was 43 years old. Doctors discovered lumps in her breast during a routine exam. She went through a mastectomy and was thankfully declared in remission. Kotb had never had a mammogram before, and this experience led her to become an advocate for breast cancer prevention and awareness.
Known for her positive and upbeat attitude on and off-screen, the loving mother is indeed the perfect person to cheerlead other survivors, but it’s also perfectly okay for her to look to others for support when she’s off camera. Kotb just recently announced that she split with her fiancé of 8 years, financier Joel Schiffman, 64. The amicable pair co-parent 2-year-old Hope Catherine and Hailey, age 4, both of whom they adopted together. Hopefully Delia’s story of finding love again has inspired Kotb as much as it has for us!