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The Truth About Cancer
Take One Step: A PBS Health Campaign
The Truth About Cancer + Take One Step: A Conversation About Cancer with Linda Ellerbee  

Watching: The Truth About Cancer

Chapter 1: Introduction [4:06]

Six years after her husband Larry's death from lung cancer, Linda asks: "Why does anyone still die of cancer?"

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Transcript: Chapter 1 - Introduction

DAVID RYAN: How you will be judged by your colleagues and by patients and their families has often very little to do with whether you made the right decision from a chemotherapy standpoint. It's how you manage the patients through the end of life.

DAVID RYAN: When people find out that you're an oncologist at a cocktail party or something it's the biggest discussion downer and, and halter that there is...

DAVID RYAN: ....we are actually looking up inside of you, and...

DAVID RYAN: The biggest question I'll get is, "How do you do what you do? How could you do that?"

INTERVIEWER: And, what's your answer?

DAVID RYAN: How could you not? In the oncology clinic exists the possibility for the best that people have to offer to one another...

JAMES BUTRYNSKI: ... a role to just doing up-front surgery? Um, this is...

DAVID RYAN: ...and you get to be witness to that every day. So it's like, ah, you can't make these stories up. It's like living a movie.

NARRATOR: In Boston, Massachusetts, not so long ago, I set out to make my own cancer movie, starring my husband.

GERALDINE D'ONOFRIO: Merry Christmas to you. Bless you.

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: [laughs] When I need a crazy moment.

NARRATOR: Lawrence Peter D'Onofrio was the only man I had ever met who actually howled at the full moon.

CORRINNE D'ONOFRIO: Nikolas! Nikolas! Here you go!

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: Hey! Hey! And they go back in. I love that part.

NARRATOR: He was part of a proud Italian-American family, and he had just been diagnosed before Christmas with a rare cancer that would require the removal of his right lung.

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: When they bring me in for surgery, he says, "Now, is it the left one we should take out?" Noooo.

CORRINNE D'ONOFRIO: That right one is kind of...

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: Other one.

NARRATOR: Larry and I bought a camera to film his story, because we believed it could have a happy ending. We were baby boomers, after all, and we had seen America put a man on the moon.

ASTRONAUT: Houston, Columbia ...

NARRATOR: Shortly after the moon shot, President Nixon declared a war on cancer, committing the nation to finding a cure. And I believed it was within our reach.

PRESIDENT NIXON: The time has come in America when the same kind of concentrated effort that took man to the moon should be turned to find a cure for cancer.

NARRATOR: As the daughter of a space program engineer, I had grown up with unquestioning faith in America's ability to solve problems with science and technology. So nothing, nothing at all, prepared me for what happened thirty years later, when my husband died of cancer.

NARRATOR: Why did he die? Why does anyone still die of cancer?

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A Conversation About Cancer with Linda Ellerbee
Watch Take One Step: A Conversation About Cancer with Linda Ellerbee >

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