Giving My Blog A Voice: Lee Silverstein and the Colon Cancer Podcast
A great aspect of my current life is that I get to meet some incredible people doing incredible things. Doing things that they never would have done without cancer entering their life – done both in spite of cancer and because of it. Many of these people are incredible in quiet and unassuming ways. Others make big impacts in more public sorts of way. Lee Silverstein is in the latter group.
I first met Lee last November when I received a message: “Would you be interested in being recorded for an interview?” It would be half an hour and very free-form. I have many writing projects and have been interviewed in print a few times but I was intrigued by the opportunity to do essentially the first audio version of this blog. Lee has made a HUGE splash in the colorectal cancer (CRC) community by developing and producing “The Colon Cancer Podcast”. Knowing about both Lee and his Podcast long before he contacted me (he & it are pretty famous in CRC circles), I immediately said yes!
Turning the Tables: Lee Silverstein’s Story
Lee has Stage IV colorectal cancer. But like all fellow survivors, his story is unique with some incredible details. That is actually a big point of his podcast: we all have interesting & unique stories of survival to tell. Lee’s story is no different.
“Cancer has been a part of my life for all my life” is how Lee begins his story of survival. First diagnosed with cancer when he was only 5 years old, Lee had a rare childhood cancer called “Wilms’ Tumor”. It required the removal of one of his young kidneys as well as chemotherapy infusions into his small 5-year old body. It had been found by accident during a tonsil-removal pre-op blood test. The luck of finding it meant that it was discovered at an early and very curable stage. “My tonsil stayed, my kidney went!” sums up Lee’s both humor-filled and matter-of-fact approach to life. Even though there is no statistical correlation between childhood Wilms’ Tumor and cancer in later life, in his gut Lee felt otherwise “I lived my life expecting, though not worrying, that I would someday face cancer again”
The pattern of ironically timed surprises continued for Lee as he entered later life. He had a Doctor’s appointment on his 50th birthday. The Doctor chuckled and said “Happy Birthday – have a good time” as he handed him the paperwork to have his first screening colonoscopy. The colonoscopy found out he had symptomless Stage 2 CRC. Lee wasn’t worried about himself (he had been expecting a cancer diagnosis for 40 years) – he was only worried about the impact on his parents, sons and new girlfriend Linda. His colon surgery went well, he went on with his life.
New Year’s Eve 2011 – Lee proposed to his girlfriend Linda. Life was good. Screening continued including a biopsy of small spot on his liver almost a year later in late 2012.
New Year’s Eve 2012 – a few days after getting home from their honeymoon, Lee’s cell phone rang while they were out shopping for New Year’s Eve champagne. They were excited to celebrate their first New Year’s Eve as a married couple. It was his doctor. “I’m sorry to call you on New Year’s Eve with this news…” The small liver spot was a Stage IV CRC recurrence. Liver surgery and 6 months of chemo followed, with excellent chances of cure.
Just When I Thought I was Out, They Pull Me Back In
Until… 2 lung mets appeared. How did Lee respond? First with his amazing attitude “There is always somebody out there that wishes they had the diagnosis I had”. Followed up with his usual aplomb. “I was immediately reminded of Al Pacino’s line from the movie, The Godfather Part III: ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’” 5 days of lung SBRT radiation was used as lung treatment. The day after this radiation ended? Lee ran a practice 5k in the Tampa “Undy Run” to raise awareness for the CRC! That is my kind of CRC advocate!
Sharing Stories of Struggle, Hope & Survival in the Face of Colorectal Cancer
As you can see in his story, being a Stage IV CRC survivor has not slowed Lee down one bit. In terms of both living life to the fullest and in terms of advocacy. Lee had a great idea. There were plenty of patient blogs and the occasional profile done on CRC survivors but a regular audio series focused on CRC survivors and their caregivers did not exist. He knew that each interview would have a unique and impactful story to tell. He described his plans as “stories of Struggle, Hope & Survival in the face of colorectal cancer”. As a personal goal, Lee intended: “I was going to feel good by making other people feel good”.
Lee began to interview fellow survivors, their caregivers and the occasional CRC oncologist. His project really took off in popularity as he filled a niche with stories of both information and inspiration (sound familiar?) 🙂
Giving my Blog a Voice
I was thrilled to be interviewed by Lee – to tell my story and philosophy in a free-form audio setting for the first time. As I mentioned, essentially an audio-version of this blog! It was a wide ranging interview where I wore all hats (sometimes simultaneously): patient, scientist and advocate! If you want to put a voice to the face & words you have been reading in this blog – click on the picture below! As a bonus, you get to hear how to pronounce my last name which I know is a big question in CRC circles ha 🙂
Lee did his first podcast on February 24th, 2015 – a little over one year ago. Almost 50 interviews have been completed and his podcasts have been listened to almost 15,000 times in all 50 states and in 67 countries – doing as he says: bringing information, Hope & Inspiration to listeners everywhere. He is an example of amazing impacts that a single person can have on the world, not only in spite of – but because of – a Stage IV cancer diagnosis.
The Colon Cancer Podcast is available on ITunes and Google Play – I recommend you check it out to hear the voices behind some incredible stories. Happy Colon Cancer Podcast 1 year anniversary Lee (a little bit late)! May you have many more!
Thank you for giving my Blog a voice!