|The Testicular Cancer Resource Center|
TCRC's Interview with Bob Losure
Dec 17, 1997
by Chris Brewer
A familiar face to millions of faithful CNN viewers, Bob Losure was diagnosed with embryonal carcinoma in April of 1985. He had an RPLND, but the cancer came back and he underwent three cycles of chemotherapy. We caught up with Bob at his home in Atlanta, Georgia, where he spoke candidly about his TC experience and it?s impact on his life?
TCRC: Is there anything right off the bat that you like to talk about when you are asked about cancer?
Bob Losure: I think the first thing you want to enforce, especially [these days], is the fact that cancer is survivable. I do believe that a positive mental attitude makes all the difference in the world -- I think that's 50% of it. The other 50% you may not control, but at least you have a head start this way.
People will tell you "Oh, how sorry" they are, and they will send you cards saying "We are so sorry to hear of..." and from what it looks like on the card you have a terminal illness and we've enjoyed knowing you! And it can bring you down if you look at it that way, and say "Well, gee, people are giving up on me." Well people shouldn't give up on others, and if it's a fact of life, then we need to change that fact. We're saving 3 out of every 5 cancer victims today, 20 years ago it was 2 out of 5. There's a huge thrust in the research area, and an improvement in chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery altogether.
TCRC: Did you know anything about testicular cancer prior to your getting sick?
BL: I had no idea. I noticed something like 2 or 3 marbles laid end-to-end in the sack on the right side. I went to my doctor for an annual physical -- thank heavens I went when I did because it had started growing, probably 5 or 6 weeks before that, and if I had waited another 5 or 6 weeks there was no telling how large it would have gotten.
TCRC: When exactly were you diagnosed, and what was the specific diagnosis?
BL: I was almost 38, and I was diagnosed April 22, 1985 with an embryonal cell carcinoma. I went to my doctor for the physical, he sent me directly to a urologist. 3 days later the urologist operated, that's how quick they took care of it. It was done at the Springer Clinic at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When they did the removal of the right side, examined it, found that it was cancerous, the regimen was to do an RPLND. They cut open your abdomen, they pull out abut 60 or 70 of the little button like devices and look at them. They found X of them were cancerous in my body, and they gave me a 60% chance that the cancer would not come back, 40% it would. They felt that even if it did come back, that they could control it.They knew that I anchored at a local station, and that if I didn't go back to work that I risked losing my job. And that's what a lot of people in this country have to face. Whether it's colon cancer, stomach cancer, the liver, the kidneys, whatever, they face the thought of: Gee, if I go through chemotherapy for 3 or 4 months even on an outpatient basis, there's always the chance that my company will decide "Well, we want somebody's who's healthy." I went back to work and 2 months later the cancer had returned in the groin area, about where they had cut the cord and pulled the right side out, and amazingly it was about the size of a quarter, and they went back in and they operated. And then I really had no choice because that cancer could go to my brain, almost immediately.Maybe I should have taken the chemotherapy earlier, maybe I shouldn't - so then I took the chemo - and they replaced me in the job that I'm in! But it forced me to go out and get a better job. I was working at the CBS affiliate in Tulsa. I had an agent in New York and he started sending my tape out, and amazingly the people at CNN Headline News stood up and saluted! They had me come in and audition, and I told them exactly what was going on. My hair was falling out at the time (this was between the second and third session) -- I was trying to keep every little hair on my head that I could. I told them that this will be 3 or 4 months before we know what the outcome is, but if you'll wait, I'll be your anchor. And I guess they thought about that, they came back to me and said, "We want you." And so I waited from mid September '85 and I reported for work in January '86. It worked out for the best for me.I came to the conclusion, "Well, we're going to go through it (chemotherapy)." And if it took 4, 5, or 6 sessions of this, that's what I was going to do. I know people get scared when they think of a large IV being put in their vein, and all these drugs being pumped through them, but much of the nausea has been reduced, thanks to Zofran and some of these more modern drugs.
I had a drug called Reglan that was administered to me while in the hospital, most people react fine to it -- I did not. And because of that I felt like I was going to jump out the window, or climb on the ceiling -- things just did not go right. And it got to the point where I was very confused, and the same thing happened until about day 2 of my second in-hospital session when we realized that was the problem. Then they gave me a suppository, which knocked me out(!), and then in the third session of chemo, 3 weeks later, they had it down to a "fine art" where they knew not to use a full suppository plus they could keep me from being nauseous without knocking me out.
TCRC: I've heard it said that Oncology is an "art" as well as a "science"?
BL: Everybody's different, but you know, if I had not had the results of science, though, I would not have had a chance. I didn't even have to go through a fourth session of chemo, and I have been free of cancer for 12 years.
TCRC: How did you go about telling people that you were sick, being in the public eye as you were?
BL: I've always had a policy of honesty, if people couldn't take it -- and I tried to explain it in a nice way so it didn't turn their stomachs, but I really thought "Well, this is not your fault." It really hit me that I did not have to feel responsible. All too often we feel like this is our fault, that we did something wrong that freed this into our bodies -- that's not the case.
TCRC: How did you find people reacted when you told them you had testicular cancer?
BL: They reacted in all kinds of ways. Most of your friends realize that you probably know best what to do, they don't know a whole lot. And especially in TC, it's a very personal thing. I really didn't have the overwhelming desire to be flooded with people, either grieving for me or praying for me or trying to cheer me up.
TCRC: How did you feel about having the RPLND?
BL: It's a tough experience. You may have to go into ICU for a couple of days. I had tubes coming out of the side, and I was somewhat confused. I don't do well with Demerol or Morphine or those kinds of drugs, so I really tried to just grin and bear it. I had an NG tube up my nose, and I guess about the third or fourth day I pulled it out in my sleep -- it was in my lap! Luckily my intestines were working, things were going in the right direction, and I was incredibly lucky I didn't aspirate something. It's not a pleasant experience being hooked up to a machine all night, it's somewhat sensitive on your nose, but again, I never felt it going in and I never felt it coming out, so maybe I should feel lucky for that.
TCRC: Do you now look back on having TC as a positive or a negative experience?
BL: A hugely positive experience. Not only does it give you the chance to talk to people, because there are a lot of TC patients in this country, but those of us who have had TC can empathize with those who have had prostate cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer -- a lot of the deadlier types. You have to kind of speak softly and listen, because my story is one story, but other people have had bouts of cancer for years.
I've lost numerous friends, including 2 of my co-anchors to cancer. One was Ramona Huffman and the other was Bill Pittcock. Both of them anchored the news at KOTV at Tulsa where I worked. It strikes close to home, too. Cancer is certainly in the history of my family. It's incredible, my mother has had a hysterectomy and skin cancer, my father had lip cancer. You know, you look at these things and you say, "Boy, you are lucky you caught it when you did."
TCRC: You almost hear that bullet whiz by your head?
BL: Oh, yeah -- I would not have made it to this stage. I would not have had the experience to talk to other people. I have no illusion that I am going to live forever, or that some disease may get me down the road. You just don't know how close you are, we don't know, even to this day, why TC develops the way that it does. Whether it's trauma, our diet, inhaling second hand smoke -- we don't know. It could well be genetic, there's no doubt about that. I'm lucky to be moving at age 50 in 1997.
TCRC: What are you doing these days? I know you do a lot of speaking in the cancer arena?
BL: I do speeches to various hospitals, and all kinds of civic groups. A lot of people can benefit if they have seen you on television literally without any sign that you have had cancer. [Cancer] seems to happen across all lines, it doesn't matter who you are, and maybe that gives them hope. These days I do a wide amount of speaking and emcee work; I do trade shows, and corporate training videos. I have a pretty wide range of clients who employ me to do things behind the scenes. I really don't do any commercials -- it's not that I'm adverse to that, but I had done CNN Headline News for 11 years and I worked till 3:00 in the morning almost every Saturday and Sunday night for most of those years. I got to the point where I said, "You better stop and smell the roses. You're doing corporate stuff full time, you're doing Headline News full time -- what are you going to do?"
I like being independent, and if I want to take 4 or 5 days off to go see my 88 year old mother in Tulsa - I'm an only child, and right or wrong I'm the only one she's got! - I can do that, and I'm glad I made the move that I did. You know, everyone has to decide for themselves because in this business you make a little money here and there, and then it may dry up for several weeks. You know that going in.
TCRC: Since you were in the news media for so long, what part do you see the news media play? More of a positive force, or a "cure du jour"??
BL: The greatest fear is that we get superficial on these things and we start kind of a herd mentality where we lump all cancer in together, and you put the "Big C" word up there, and people shudder and worry -- it's almost a scare tactic sometimes. I think the news media, if anything, is concentrating more on health because they know there's a market there among their audience. The good thing that I see is that more and more local stations are realizing that people do want to know more about health, especially with the Baby Boomer generation getting older. They want to know more about what life is going to be like for them when they're 75.
TCRC: A lot of the stigmas are gone, too -- you couldn't say the word "testicle" on the news 15 years ago.
BL: No, and thank heavens you can now, and thank heavens we can talk about testicular cancer openly. I was up in a little town called Deloniga in Georgia here last October, and they had a cancer awareness (event). It was mostly women, there were a few men, who went around this track at a local college. We all walked around this track 3 or 4 times, some people kept kind of a marathon going, taking shifts, for 24 hours to raise the awareness of cancer, of early detection, going to see your doctor. And I thought "Maybe that's starting to take root around this country." These women were proud to say "Hey, I've had a mastectomy -- some a double mastectomy -- but I'm out here running this track showing you just how proud just to be alive." For a small community like that, they probably had seldom come out in the open to say "Hey, we are cancer survivors."
And TC hasn't slowed me down a bit. I'm out back cutting down trees with a saw, I'm out playing tennis, I go boating -- there are a lot of things I like to do that keep me active. I do have a nice big scar on the right side, and if somebody's really interested in seeing it, I'll show them! Maybe it makes us appreciate what's more than skin deep, maybe it makes us appreciate what the real person's all about.
TCRC: In retrospect, what would you like to tell men about TC?
BL: It is highly survivable -- and that's what they want to hear! And your sex drive is not diminished, and your sexual function (if lost) can come back. And if it's not back right away after having TC, give it time, do not be afraid to go to a therapist, do not be afraid to go to a doctor.
TCRC: Do you think TC awareness/education is something that should be taught in high schools and colleges?
BL: I think it's definitely needed in high schools and colleges. I know there'll be an uproar of "Well, how much do we talk about the male sexual organs?" -- well I'm sorry, I'd rather save some guys. This can start with a fellow who's 17 or 18 years old; it has nothing to do with their lifestyle, it has nothing to do with a feeling of guilt, and we need to get more out on it. And maybe it'll make people aware of all forms of cancer, because we always think when we're young that we do live forever, and that it will always happen to somebody else -- well that somebody else could be you?
To read all about his life, cancer, and Headline News, pick up his
Five Seconds to Air : Broadcast Journalism Behind the Scenes.