Myeloma Mom: We Can All Be Proud Of Tom Brokaw
Published: Feb 25, 2014 5:20 pm
I was in the middle of making dinner a few weeks ago when I got an urgent text from my sister-in-law.
“Did you know Tom Brokaw has multiple myeloma?”
I occasionally hear about celebrities who have multiple myeloma, and I’m always interested in their stories, but this was somehow different. This was stunning. It felt like a friend had been diagnosed.
This was Tom Brokaw! Tom Brokaw, people!
I’m not a creepy stalker. Let me explain. I’ve never technically met, written to, spoken to, or made actual eye contact with Tom Brokaw, although I was briefly in the same room with him when he gave a speech in 1992. I’m sure he remembers.
No, here is my connection to Tom Brokaw: I graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1997, and Tom Brokaw graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1964.
This doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but … it’s a really big deal if you’re from South Dakota. If you’re not from South Dakota you’re not really buying my “not a creepy stalker” explanation right now. If you are from South Dakota, you’re quietly nodding your head.
For years, this has been my one big connection to Tom Brokaw. It’s a connection I’ve always been proud of, and a connection I like to mention all the time to non-South Dakotans.
I now live in Kansas City, Missouri, and most people here have never heard of the University of South Dakota (USD). They’re shocked when I tell them South Dakota is only a four-hour drive from here. They tend to picture South Dakota as a distant, far away land filled with cornfields, tractors, and Mount Rushmore.
“The University of South Dakota?” they’ll say. “Where is that?”
“It’s about an hour south of Sioux Falls,” I’ll say.
They’ll still look confused.
Then I’ll add, “Tom Brokaw went there.”
Then they’ll finally nod with some understanding, realizing I’m talking about an actual, not-made-up, possibly not-in-the-middle-of-a-cornfield university. Hardly anyone knows where Sioux Falls is. Everybody knows who Tom Brokaw is.
Heck, everyone loves Tom Brokaw, don’t they? I know I do. Starting when I was in elementary school, my family would watch him on the news every night.
As the terrorist attacks were happening on September 11, 2001, I knew everything was going to be okay as long as Tom Brokaw was on the air. Tom Brokaw was going to keep us all calm.
When he retired from the nightly news in 2004, I quit watching. What was the point? It didn’t seem like real news anymore.
All South Dakotans and USD alums are proud of Tom Brokaw, the most famous person to come from the state and to graduate from the university. Knowing Tom Brokaw is awesome is just part of being from South Dakota. It’s something you instinctively know, just like you know the capital city, Pierre, is pronounced “Peer,” not “Pee-air.”
I believe Tom Brokaw is equally proud of his South Dakota roots. He’ll occasionally return to campus to ride down the main street of Vermillion, South Dakota, in the Dakota Days Parade. He once did a report from Vermillion, highlighting some of the bars he frequented in college.
Tom Brokaw was a bit of a partier back in the day. Read his biography. If you’re from South Dakota, you already have.
Tom Brokaw and I have always had that South Dakota connection. And now, unfortunately, we have another.
I know many in the myeloma community are hopeful that Tom Brokaw will become the public face of myeloma, bringing much needed awareness to our disease.
Perhaps that will happen in time, but for now he has requested privacy about his condition. I totally get that, and I think that the fact that he merely announced having the disease has already helped to raise awareness. From now on, if someone asks me what multiple myeloma is, I can say, “It’s the same cancer that Tom Brokaw has.”
Then they’ll finally nod with some understanding, realizing I’m talking about an actual, not-made-up disease. Hardly anyone knows what myeloma is. Everybody knows who Tom Brokaw is.
Once again, I’m part of a small, little-known group that claims Tom Brokaw as its most famous alum. If I’ve learned anything about my time in South Dakota, it’s this: Tom Brokaw will make us proud.