A light went out in our world when we lost Leroy Sievers. An award-winning journalist and executive producer of ABC's Nightline, Sievers lost his battle with cancer on August 15, 2008.
What remains of the talents he shared, however, is more than an outstanding body of work in print, radio and television. More important, he leaves a legacy in the way he courageously chose to share his personal experience. Siever's blog, "My Cancer," brought to light the ups and downs of his everyday life as he fought back through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
In an article on NPR.org, Shomial Ahmad writes, "The sharing of Siever's experience began on NPR's Morning Edition, in a commentary that aired Feb. 16, 2006. Several months after the first commentary came a second, and then a regular series chronicling Sievers' life in what he called "Cancer World."
"Ellen McDonnell, NPR's morning-programming director, recalls listening to that first commentary in which the rawness and transparency of Sievers' words struck a chord with listeners - those battling cancer, and others as well.
"Leroy gave voice to a topic that we are very uncomfortable with - death and dying," McDonnell said. "My Cancer had a face and a heart and a smile."
The blog became a virtual meeting place, with readers responding to Sievers as well as to each others' stories, blossoming into a community. As the leader of that community he showed us that we, as individuals, are not alone. As a participant in it, he showed the world, as a whole, the healing power of community.
By simply chronicling his experience, Sievers achieved many things: He assured people that they are not alone in their battle with cancer. He so eloquently expressed what many couldn't find the words to say as he endured pokes and pain and newfound patience. He shared his delight in small pleasures. He showed us how to laugh. In doing so, he accomplished something that was larger than the sum of it all. He made the world a better place by helping not only those with cancer, but countless others with chronic illness, their friends and loved ones.
The late Alvan Barach, one of the true pioneers in the care of patients with emphysema - and a world class humanist - often spoke on the subject, "Remember to Live." In short, Leroy Sievers, even in his darkest hours, "remembered to live" but in the noblest of ways, by reaching out to help others by allowing us see his face, his heart and his smile.
People with COPD are especially prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation; physically, socially, and psychologically. Supportive communities, important in any disease state, are no less than essential to those with COPD.
You don't have to go it alone. Becoming part of a community - learning from others what you need to do to stay healthy, be as engaged in life as possible, laugh when you can and delight in simple pleasures - will lighten your load and help you feel better. It truly will.
A light went out when we lost Leroy Sievers. But thanks to him the world of cancer and chronic illness is not quite so dark anymore. Through his sharing a legacy remains, revealing a new world community and a glimmer of hope.