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Jennings shares a touching thank you

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http://www.nynewsday.com/news/health/ny ... -headlines


May 1, 2005

Peter Jennings, in a statement read on ABC's "World News Tonight," shared with viewers his feelings about his battle with lung cancer and expressed gratitude for the support he has received from fans and friends.

The anchorman, 66, had announced on April 6 that he was diagnosed with the disease and shortly thereafter began treatment.

"Thousands of you have spoiled me rotten with your attention in the last couple of weeks," Jennings said Friday night in a statement that was read on air by anchorwoman Elizabeth Vargas. "So many experiences have meant something special. A woman in my building who is a cancer survivor showed up at my front door so that we could see that bald really is beautiful. She's right."

By allowing his feelings to be expressed on air, Jennings gave viewers an unusually personal glimpse of what it is like to have the disease as well as offering what may be solace to cancer patients, support group leaders said.

"What we see in Peter Jennings is a role model," said Suzanne Brace, executive director of HopeWell Cancer Support in Lutherville, Md. "Whenever someone like that goes public, it gives others permission to talk about their cancers. It also offers encouragement and courage. People think, 'If he can go public with his employers about his cancer, maybe I can, too.'"

Jennings offered a further update on his treatment Friday in a letter posted on the abcnews.com Web site.

"Yesterday, I decided to go to the office; I live only a few blocks away. I got as far as the bedroom door. Chemo strikes," Jennings wrote. "Do I detect a knowing but sympathetic smile on many of your faces? You knew this was coming."

Jennings went on to describe notes and messages he had received from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Hamilton Jordan, former chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter.

In a note, Specter told the anchorman, "the only way to get through chemo is to work your way through it." "He's a tougher man than I am," Jennings said.

Jordan sent Jennings a book titled "No Such Thing as a Bad Day."

"He's had cancer four times. He tells me, as have many others, that when it gets really bad, it will get better. Whew!" Jennings added.

"I won't soon forget an encounter as I was leaving the hospital. A middle-aged couple was going into the building and as they passed me, I heard my name and turned. The woman stepped right in my face and said, 'Me too. Lung cancer.' Instinctively, immediately, we gave each other a hug - a real hug - and went on our respective ways knowing that we had been strengthened by the connection."

That kind of testimony from a public figure like Jennings can make a "huge difference" in peoples' lives, Brace said after hearing Jennings' remarks on the newscast.

"I was thinking back to when Betty Ford first went public with her breast cancer, and what a difference that made," Brace said. "This does give people a way to say, 'Me too.'"

Jennings has not anchored the newscast since April 1. Vargas and Charles Gibson, co-host of "Good Morning America," have substituted for him.

The Baltimore Sun is a Tribune Co. newspaper.

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