The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Panel Discusses Lung Cancer

Aired April 5, 2005 - 21:00   ET


PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: As some of you now know, I have learned, in the last couple of days, that I have lung cancer.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE" (voice-over): Tonight, ABC news anchor making news himself, announcing that he has lung cancer, a deadly disease that kills thousands of Americans every year. We'll talk with Tammy Faye Messner -- last year she declared she had lung cancer, and now says she's cancer-free.

Also with us is Lori Downey. Her husband was Morton Downey, Jr., who battled lung cancer for years before it killed him.

The former Winston man, two-time lung cancer survivor, Alan Landers.

"Law and Order" actress, S. Epatha Merkerson -- she's lost two close friends to the disease and her sister survived it.

And lung cancer expert Dr. Ronald Natale.

They're all next in an hour that could save your life, on "LARRY KING LIVE."


KING: Before we begin, here's what Peter Jennings said at the conclusion of "ABC News Tonight," tonight. Watch.


JENNINGS: Finally this evening, a brief note about change. Some of you have noticed, in the last several days, that I was not covering the pope. Well, my colleagues at ABC did a superb job. I did think a few times I was missing out. However, as some of you now know, I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer. Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago. And I was weak and I smoked over 9/11. But whatever the reasons, the news does slow you down a bit. I've been reminding my colleagues today, who have all been incredibly supportive, that almost 10 million Americans are already living with cancer and I have a lot to learn from them. And living is the key word. The National Cancer Institute says that we are survivors from the moment of diagnosis.

I will continue to do the broadcast on good days. My voice will not always be like this. Certainly, it's been a long time, and I hope it goes without saying that a journalist who doesn't value deeply the audience's loyalty should be in another line of work. To be perfectly honest, I'm a little surprised at the kindness today from so many people -- that's not intended as false modesty, but even I was taken aback by how far and how fast news travels.

Finally, I wonder if other men and women ask their doctors right away, okay, doc, when does the hair go? At any rate, that's it for now on "World News Tonight." Have a good evening. I'm Peter Jennings. Thanks, and good night.


KING: Before we talk with the rest of our panel, let's check in with Dr. Ronald Natale, medical oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Institute. He joins us from Los Angeles. First, briefly, without being too medical, what is lung cancer?

DR. RONALD NATALE, ONCOLOGIST, CEDAR SINAI CANCER INSTITUTE: Lung cancer is a malignancy that originates in the lung, most often in people who are smokers.

KING: Does it usually spread?

NATALE: Usually does spread. The majority of patients in whom the diagnosis is made already have metastases, by that I mean, cancer that has spread to from the primary tumor in the lung, either to regional lymph nodes or to other organs in the body.

KING: When we hear it is inoperable, what does that mean?

NATALE: That means it's gone beyond the confines of what a surgeon can remove surgically. It has gone beyond the chest and the regional lymph nodes. It has spread either to lymph nodes that are beyond what a surgeon can reach or spread to other organs in the body.

KING: Now, when they say he will start chemotherapy next week, an obvious question, why not start tonight?

NATALE: Well, there's no rush. This is a malignancy...


NATALE: No, there's -- this cancer has been growing and developing for a long period of time. It's been growing silently, probably, for anywhere from six to maybe as long as 12 years, and during that growth period, has had the opportunity to spread to other organs of the body. So, there's no rush to begin chemotherapy immediately. In fact, I would hope that he's gotten more than one opinion and has had the opportunity to discuss various treatment options with his doctors.

KING: And what is the general -- and you're doing this in a blind sense, you haven't examined his tissues and the like -- the general recovery rate, what percentage? NATALE: Well, it depends, Larry, on the stage. If Mr. Jennings has advanced stage lung cancer, which I would assume because he's receiving chemotherapy, then his long-term prognosis is severe.

KING: Tammy Faye Messner, how did you learn you had lung cancer?

TAMMY FAYE MESSNER, LUNG CANCER SURVIVOR: Well, Larry, about two years ago, I lost my voice just like Peter did and was told that I had inoperable lung cancer. And I want to tell Peter that cancer starts out with the word "can" so you hang in there and don't you dare give up.

It made me cry when I heard him say, well, if you know it's inoperable, when will I lose my hair? And I thought, it's really interesting to know that men think about that, too, and not just women. But I found out that I had it and I'm still alive and kicking two years later. I had cancer in four places in my lungs. I had one place as big as a walnut, and then three smaller spots.

KING: How were you treated?

MESSNER: I was treated with chemotherapy and last year in August I found out that all four spots were gone.

KING: Is that, Dr. Natale, extraordinary?

NATALE: Well, it's a bit unusual, but it does happen, and especially in the last several years. We've made some remarkable advances in the chemotherapy treatment of lung cancer, and especially with regards to the identification of some novel targeted agents.

KING: We'll get to that in a while.

Allen Landers is our other panelist who has suffered from it. He was the former Winston man, did the cigarette -- he was the model for the cigarette ads for Winston, was the Tiparillo man for 14 years, started smoking when he was nine, got lung cancer at age 47, has had two operations. Allen, what is your condition now?

ALAN LANDERS, FMR. "WINSTON MAN" MODEL, TWO-TIME LUNG CANCER SURVIVOR: Well, thank God, I just go from x-ray to x-ray. And I'm hanging in there. And I want to convey my prayers to Mr. Jennings and hope I can be an inspiration to him being a twice lung cancer survivor and open heart surgery.

KING: But you were able to have surgery on your cancer. Does that mean they caught it early?

LANDERS: No, not really. It just, it was operable. So what they did was, they took two lobes out of my right lung on the first lung cancer, and on the second lung cancer, which was about four and a half years later, they took one lobe out of my left lung. So I never had to have chemotherapy, thank God.

KING: Currently, if we looked at you now, would you be cancer free? LANDERS: Would I be cancer free?

KING: Yes, right now.

LANDERS: You are never really considered cancer-free. It is just a matter of staying alive and staying positive and hoping every time I go to the doctor for an x-ray or checkup, I have my stomach in my mouth and hope to God that he's not going to tell me that it's spread again.

KING: Dr. Natale, are you never totally free of cancer?

NATALE: Well, there's always a concern. I think once an early stage cancer is diagnosed, if a patient is treated surgically, many of those patients can be cured. But as in the case of Mr. Landers, I think, he probably developed a second lung cancer four and a half years later. And that's part of the dilemma for lung cancer patients. They may be home free after the first cancer, but they remain at high risk of developing a second lung cancer four years, six years, even 10 years later.

KING: We'll take a break and come back and talk with Lori Downey and Epatha Merkerson, who had relatives who died of lung cancer. We'll be including your calls on this show. Don't go away.


JENNINGS: You know, I came just as the Cold War was coming to an end. So I've been here, and I'd had a fabulous 10 years before that, as you know.

KING: As a co-anchor.

JENNINGS: More than that, I was just on the road all the time which was absolutely fabulous, and so I wasn't all that thrilled about coming back to New York. And then, when you think about the events that we've been through, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to, I guess you'd have to say 9/11 being the culmination at the other end of that scope, what extraordinary changes there have been in the year. And any time there are those of us who are anchors and editors get to play on all of those events in some way, shape, or form, I think that's the way I look at it. Do I feel older? No, I don't.

KING: Is this the longest individual job you've ever had?

JENNINGS: I was a foreign correspondent for almost 20 years. This is the longest -- and I do ask myself that on occasion. I didn't think I would do it for very long.

KING: That's what I mean.

JENNINGS: I didn't plan to do it very long, and it just happens. It goes on and on. One of these days, they or I will say, thank you very much, we'll do something differently. But, I've never -- and I can't -- when I came to the States in the mid-1960s, 1964, I didn't think I'd be here, maybe a couple of years, have a great experience in the United States and go back to Canada. Well, here we are 40 years later.




MORTON DOWNEY JR., ENTERTAINER: I'm Morton Downey Jr., so-called television tough guy. You know something, I knew cigarettes could never hurt me. Wrong, now I've got lung cancer and I could die. What really bothers me is, I won't be around to see my 2 1/2-year-old grow up and say no to smoking.


KING: That was the late Morton Downey Jr., who died of lung cancer six years -- he died after battling it for six years. He died in March of 2001. His widow Lori joins us if Los Angeles. How did Mort discover he had it, Lori?

LORI DOWNEY, WIFE OF MORTON DOWNEY, JR.: We thought we were treating a cold at the time. He had a cough and he had a high fever. We went in because we thought he had bronchial pneumonia.

KING: Was he -- he smoked a long time, didn't he?

DOWNEY: He smoked many years. He said 50 years. That would make him very young, right? But he did smoke five packs a day.

KING: And he used to defend it on television. Do you remember? I know you weren't married to him then, but I think you used to watch him. He defended it.

DOWNEY: I actually was married to him. He actually belonged to the National Coalition of Smokers Alliance. So he actually sat on the board and actually believed that smokers had the right to smoke wherever they wanted to -- until he got sick.

KING: Dr. Natale, why -- what does smoke do -- we know that it does. Do we know why it does.

NATALE: Well, not completely. We know that nicotine is one of the most addictive chemicals ever discovered. And it's the nicotine that addicts people to smoking cigarettes. And cigarettes, unfortunately, contain a large number of carcinogens, chemicals that can mutate the cells and the bronchial epitheliums and even other parts of the body. So those carcinogens cause lung cancer and a variety of other cancers.

KING: Before we talk to Epatha, Tammy Faye, did you smoke?

MESSNER: I never smoked in my life, Larry.

KING: How did she get lung cancer, Dr. Natale?

NATALE: We know that 15 percent to 20 percent of the 170,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with year have either never smoked or smoked very little. So there are other things that can cause lung cancer.

KING: All right, Epatha, what's your story. You play Lt. Anita Van Buren of -- done it for many years now?

S. EPATHA MERKERSON, ACTRESS: This is the end of my 12th season.

KING: On "Law & Order." Two of your best friends died of it. Your sister survived it. You were a smoker, and you're a spokesperson for an educational campaign called Lung Cancer Awareness.


KING: Tell me about your friends.

MERKERSON: Well, Yvette Hawkins (ph), we found out that she had lung cancer on March 20th, and April 10th, she was dead. She was 50...

KING: Three weeks later?

MERKERSON: She was 53-years-old.

MESSNER: Oh, so sad.

MERKERSON: She was a smoker. In fact, she took her last cigarette with her to the hospital. And my other friend, Billi Neil (ph) had just turned 44, and she had not smoked for 6 years, and died of lung cancer.

KING: Also quickly?

MERKERSON: No, she took -- it took about six months for her.

KING: Did she have surgery?

MERKERSON: She did. It metastasized into a tumor in her brain.

KING: And your sister got over it?

MERKERSON: My sister is a 10-year cancer survivor.

KING: And what happened with her?

MERKERSON: She was early detected. So they were able to remove a part of her left lung. And it just happened that she went to the doctor and had a cough, he took an X-ray, saw something on the X-ray, and she was diagnosed.

KING: Did these instances cause you to stop smoking?

MERKERSON: No. No. I woke up one morning. And it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. And I thought the one thing about living is that you can make a decision. You can decide to have another cigarette our can stop. But I didn't throw them away. Because I had gone through the trash can and gone out at all hours of the night to get cigarettes.

KING: We all know what that's like.

MERKERSON: So, I left them there on my nightstand. Because I was that kind of smoker before I put my foot on the floor, I smoked. And when I sat there for seven days, I knew I would not pick up a cigarette again and that was 12 years ago.

KING: Miss it?

MERKERSON: No. No. It was -- in retrospect, I see how it has devastated so many people.

KING: Dr. Natale, what were the earliest warning signs?

NATALE: Well, 85 percent of patients with lung cancer have symptoms. Unfortunately, when you develop symptoms, it's often too late. So there are no early warning signs.

KING: So how would it be picked up in a medical exam, with a chest X-ray?

NATALE: Chest X-ray can pick it up, but chest X-rays are old and poor technology. We're testing better technology now. And we hope that low dose spiral CT scans may have -- may be a technique by which we can diagnose lung cancer at an earlier and more curable stage.

KING: Will we ever have a blood test for it?

NATALE: I'm hopeful that some day we will have a blood test. There are tremendous advances being made, and I think we'll see that some time in the next 10 years.

KING: Lori, did Morton's smoking annoy you?

DOWNEY: No. I used to smoke with him.

KING: Did you stop?

DOWNEY: I was on, I was off, on/off, on/off, I was like a yo-yo, but yes.

KING: Are you off now?


KING: Was his death painful?

DOWNEY: To him?

KING: Yes.

DOWNEY: He was in a lot of pain. I think that it had -- you know he had two lung operations. He was COPD. He had a lot of things that were going wrong. So I think it was very painful. KING: When we come back, I'll ask Alan Landers how he feels about being the Winston Man and the Tiparillo Man. We'll be taking your calls at the bottom of the hour. Peter Jennings has lung cancer and that's our topic. Don't go away.


JIM MCKAY, ABC CORRESPONDENT: This Jim McKay reporting. In our studio, about 500 yards from all this, Peter Jennings is inside the village and is observing this with the naked eye -- Peter.

JENNINGS: Jim, those two negotiators who went in just a few moments ago have now come back out and are standing in a group, one, two, three, four, five men and an Olympic security guard outside speaking. While on adjacent building dressed in athlete suits, occasional what I would suspect are marksmen or sharp shooters from some German security agency have taken up positions on the roof adjacent to the Israeli building.



JACK KLUGMAN, ACTOR: I have cancer on the larynx from smoking. I should have listened to Tony years ago. And they removed my right vocal cord. And what -- it's now just a stump, a little piece of scar tissue. See, your cords meet in the middle when you talk, but this is now stationary. So I've got this muscle, this cord, I think it is strong enough to go over and hit that stump, which is what I've been doing. And it works like a dream.

KING: Did you used to tell him not to smoke?

KLUGMAN: Every time I go to bed...



KING: Tony did you used to tell him...

RANDALL: Oh, yes.

KING: Because you were the most anti-smoking person that I knew.

RANDALL: I think that's true. I think I'm responsible for some of the anti-smoking laws, as a matter of fact. I didn't allow smoking on the set.

KING: You knew he smoked?

RANDALL: He would smoke off the set.

KING: Did you try to tell him not to?

RANDALL: Try to tell Jack anything. KING: Never worked.

RANDALL: No, no.


KING: Alan Landers, as the former Winston man and the Tiparillo man, do you bear some umbrage toward these companies?

LANDERS: Oh, yes, Larry. I have a lot of anger towards them. I think they're marketers of death, I think they're cold-hearted killers, they have a defective product on the market. They've known since 1940 that it gave you lung cancer. They've known since 1953 that it was the most addictive drug. They never told me. If they did, I never would have endorsed the product. All they had on a label was, in 1962, I think the first label was, may be hazardous to your health. I lived in New York City. Walking across the street was hazardous to your health. Too weak, too weak a label.

KING: Did you sue them?

LANDERS: I've been waiting 10 years for my day in court to get closure. The case now is being held up by the Florida supreme court. I still haven't gone to trial.

KING: Tammy Faye, did you have any clue that something was wrong?

MESSNER: Yes, I did, Larry. I was doing "Surreal Life," and we went to do karaoke and I found out that I couldn't sing. I realized at that point that I had had a cough for about a year, and my son used to tease me. He used to say, Mom, have you thought of getting that cough checked on? And I would just laugh because the cough had become such a part of me. So, that was the two symptoms that I had which, finally, it was the last one that I realized that there was something more than a cough, wrong.

KING: Dr. Natale, if it's not detectable, most people don't pick it up, who are the survivors?

NATALE: The survivors are those patients who are fortunate enough to have their lung cancer detected at an early stage, at which point surgery or radiation therapy and now with the addition of chemotherapy, can result in a better outcome.

KING: Is the chemotherapy the Peter Jennings will be taking -- and you don't know which specific one -- are they that advanced that there should be some optimism?

NATALE: Chemotherapy certainly improved a great deal over the past decade. I wouldn't say that it's with great optimism. There are some new targeted agents that have improved the outcome as well.

KING: What, Epatha, does your educational campaign, Lung Cancer Awareness, do? MERKERSON: Well, we provide information for people who are suffering with lung cancer, for their families who care for them, people can access for any information. There's ways that they can get financial help, resources, where they should go to get help, there are online services for them to talk to people, oncology specialists and so forth.

And it really strengthened my resolve to do this when I saw those guys standing in front of Congress from the tobacco companies, with their hands raised to God saying that they -- said that cancer -- that cigarettes were not habit-forming, that nicotine did not cause cancer. That scared me. That scared me.

KING: Scared a lot of people.

MERKERSON: And so Cancer Care is a great organization. They've done great things to help people. Specifically, you know, when your family doesn't know what to do, because there's such a stigmatism against cancer. Because people say, if you quit smoking, you won't get it. And so, you know, it helps people to understand that it is a disease.

KING: Lori, Morton died very angry at if companies, did he not?

DOWNEY: Well, he was upset because he was finding out when he went to -- in September 11, 1996, he went before Congress. That's when he was trying to explain that tobacco causes cancer. It's the carcinogens in the tobacco along with the tobacco-causing cancer. I believe he went with Alan Landers. September 11 of 96...

LANDERS: That's right, he did.

DOWNEY: And you stood before the Congress.

LANDERS: That's correct.

DOWNEY: Right.

KING: He died as angry as Alan is now, right?

DOWNEY: Yes, he was, because this man wanted to live. He loved his life. He absolutely loved living. And he didn't want to die.

LANDERS: Your husband was a wonderful man.

KING: Yes, he was. Dr. Natale, would you ban it?

NATALE: Sure. I think it's a dangerous substance. So, I would have no problem banning cigarettes. Or at least increasing the control...

KING: None?

NATALE: Well, I think we can increase the controls. I think we can make it more difficult. The education campaign that we've had over the last 30 years has reduced the incidence of cigarettes smoking from 50 percent among men down to about 25 percent of the United States. But we're left with 25 percent of our male population, about 23 percent of the female population, who remain addicted to nicotine from in their cigarettes.

KING: I'm going to a break. When I come back, I'll re-introduce the guests and we'll include your phone calls. If you joined us late, Peter Jennings announced today and then on his program tonight that he has inoperable lung cancer and will begin chemotherapy treatment next week. We'll be right back.


JENNINGS: I have been in a lot of countries, I covered a lot of great stories. I've been there for some of the great moments of the last 30 years. I'm really lucky. ABC was, as I've said to you before, my educator. But this canvas you and I paint on, this canvas of America -- no wonder we keep doing it.




YUL BRYNNER, ACTOR: ... to make a commercial that says simply, now that I'm gone, I tell you, don't smoke. Whatever you do, just don't smoke.


KING: I used to watch Yul Brynner do that commercial and change channels. It wasn't going to happen to me. But I had a heart attack -- just a personal note -- in 1987. Subsequently, had quintuple bypass surgery. Have not smoked in 18 years.

Our panel, Tammy Faye Messner. She announced on this show she had lung cancer in March of last year. Last November was declared cancer-free. Lori Downey is the widow of former talk show host Morton Downey Jr. He battled lung cancer for six years. He died in March 2001. In Ft. Lauderdale is Alan Landers, the former Winston man for cigarettes, and the Tiparillo man for 14 years. He smoked at age 9, got lung cancer at age 47. Has had two lung operations. S. Epatha Merkerson is the actress who plays Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on "Law & Order." Two of her best friends died of lung cancer. Her sister is a lung cancer survivor. She's the spokesperson for the educational campaign "Lung Cancer Awareness." And in Los Angeles is Dr. Ronald Natale, medical oncologist, Cedar Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.

We will take phone calls. Let's go to Chicago, Illinois. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, I wanted to ask the doctor, are there serious -- or actual data about people who smoke all their lives and never get cancer?

KING: Doctor? NATALE: Well, there are some lucky people who can smoke all their lives and not get cancer. Statistically, about one in eight cigarette smokers develops cancer, most of them lung cancer. So this is a dangerous habit.

KING: What about second-hand smoke?

NATALE: There's a weak association between prolonged inhalation of second-hand smoke and the development of lung cancer. A lot of those studies, I believe, are somewhat controversial. But you can develop lung cancer from inhalation or passive inhalation of cigarette smoke from others.

KING: We go to Calhoun, Georgia. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. Hello. I am a survivor, and my question is, what are the chances of a nationwide ban on smoking in public buildings and restaurants? Thank you.

KING: Tammy Faye, do you ever seeing happening where smoking will be banned literally everywhere but in your house?

MESSNER: Well, I certainly hope so, Larry. It would certainly be a great help. You know, they have smoking sections in restaurants here in North Carolina. And actually, all it is is one is in one room and one is in the other, and smoke can come right straight through. So I hope it will be banned some day.

KING: Lori, would you ban it everywhere?

DOWNEY: You know, I would. And I want to tell you, recently I was back on the East Coast, and in New Jersey they still have smoking in the bowling alleys. I couldn't believe it.

KING: Alan, would you ban it everywhere?

LANDERS: Yes. And besides banning it, I would also have the Food and Drug Administration regulate nicotine as the deadly drug it is. It's not a habit; it's an addiction. I smoked the night before I was operated on for lung cancer, after my doctor had told me not to, that it would lessen the complications. I started crying when he started yelling at me and saying, how can you smoke? I said, I'm sorry, doctor, I can't control myself.

KING: Two of the great lyricists, Alan J. Lerner, composer Leonard Bernstein, died of lung cancer, and both smoked on their death bed. It ain't easy to stop.

Epatha, would you ban it everywhere?

MERKERSON: I would ban it everywhere. And I appreciate what Alan was just saying about the Food and Drug Administration recognizing that it is an addiction, that it's a narcotic. And it should be treated as such. Absolutely, it would save lives.

KING: Alan, what were your first symptoms of trouble? LANDERS: I'm a vet, so I went to the V.A., because I had a hernia operation. And when they X-rayed my lungs, they found a tumor the size of a golf ball on my right lung. I didn't really have any symptoms.

KING: Tammy, your first symptoms were what, that you -- cough that you described. When you had the chemotherapy, did you lose your hair?

MESSNER: I did not lose my hair.

KING: What were the side effects you had from it?

MESSNER: The side effects I had was aching in my bones really bad, a very, extremely sore mouth. And a very -- a lot of tiredness.

KING: Lori, Mort had operations, right? He had two, I think?

DOWNEY: Yes, he had two operations. And at the second one, we -- he did some radiation therapy for seven weeks. Although he didn't have the chemotherapy, he did have the radiation therapy.

KING: Epatha, with your sister, did she have changes?

MERKERSON: She had radiation treatments.

KING: Did she lose hair or anything?

MERKERSON: No, she didn't. I mean, she's really been very lucky with the -- the only -- the main thing for her was that it changed her life completely, because of the stigmatism of it. She lost her job.

KING: What's the stigmatism? Lost her job?

MERKERSON: Well, because, you know, she -- people believe that you can prevent lung cancer by quitting smoking. They don't realize it's a narcotic as well. And so they stigmatize the person who smokes.

And it's a disease. And we need to understand that this country sells things that allow people to get hooked. And it is a narcotic. And so when she tried to go back to work, when physically her body wasn't ready, she became ill again, and had to go back home, and ended up losing her job. I mean, it can really change your life. And in terms of getting health care for a smoker, it's impossible.

KING: Dr. Natale, without being crass, what kills you? What happens from cancer that causes death?

NATALE: We actually don't know, Larry. Many patients with lung cancer, when they die, they have healthy-appearing lungs, or adequate amount of lungs, or their heart or other organs are still functioning pretty normally. Somehow, the total tumor mass in the body gets to a point where the body begins to shut itself down.

KING: Is the body -- is it like going to war with itself, doctor?

NATALE: To some extent, it is.

KING: Like a civil war?

NATALE: Just about. There's no doubt that the body's immune system does try to fight the cancer, but obviously unsuccessfully in most people.

KING: Alan, you were going to say something?

LANDERS: Yeah, I was going to say, on my second lung cancer, my fiancee said that I snored too loudly. So I thought over the Christmas break, I would go and have my deviated septum corrected, so I would be able to breathe better and not snore. And when they did the X-rays, that's when they found the second lung cancer, four and a half years later, on my left lung.

KING: We'll be back with more in a minute and more of your phone calls. Again, Peter Jennings has lung cancer. And the wishes of all of us at CNN are for his recovery. Don't go away.


JENNINGS: As some of you now know, I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer. Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago. And I was weak, and I smoked over 9/11. But whatever the reason, the news does slow you down a bit. I've been reminding my colleagues today, who have all been incredibly supportive, that almost 10 million Americans are already living with cancer, and I have a lot to learn from them.

And living is the key word. The National Cancer Institute says that we are survivors from the moment of diagnosis.




KING: ... life. Was she always a writer, your daughter?

CAROL BURNETT, DAUGHTER DIED OF LUNG CANCER: Carrie wrote from the time she was in grammar school, she would write little essays and stories.

KING: She was diagnosed with lung cancer?


KING: Was she a smoker?


KING: Did she regret smoking? BURNETT: She apologized to me.

KING: Living through the cancer fight, what's that like to be the partner in this battle battle?

BURNETT: Well, it's...

KING: Are there days -- are there days when you...

BURNETT: There were days when -- well, she was such a force. And she could make -- she would keep everybody laughing. She did have a sense of humor about a lot of it until, of course, the end.


KING: Epatha, you told me you were with your friend when she died?

MERKERSON: I was with her -- Yvette when she took her last breath. And I think that had I not quit the year before, that it probably would have made me smoke even more. Because you know I used to pick up cigarettes when you were stressed. And I think that I probably just would have ended up smoking more just being more nervous about what had happened to her.

KING: Big problem, Dr. Natale, is young girls smoking, right?

MERKERSON: Absolutely. Because we've got this huge dilemma that nicotine decreases your appetite. So a lot of young girls smoke so they don't gain weight.

KING: By the way, is that true? Does it decrease appetite?

MERKERSON: Absolutely. You know, it's part of the substance itself. And it is part of having something in your mouth.

KING: Hudson, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. How are you?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: I'd like to know if there's any difference between lung cancer and emphysema COPD, and if it's different what can be done to treat the COPD.

KING: Good question, Johnny Carson had emphysema.

Dr. Natale, what's the difference?

NATALE: Well, COPD are Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and emphysema is a form of that, is a benign abnormality of the lungs that occurs secondary to cigarette smoking. But it's not lethal in and of itself the way a malignancy is, although many people die of emphysema. So it can be lethal. Patients who have emphysema have a higher risk of developing lung cancer. So they do go hand in hand. (CROSSTALK)

LANDERS: I also have emphysema.

KING: What did you say, Alan?

LANDERS: I said, I also have emphysema.

KING: Do you wheeze a lot?

LANDERS: Well, shortness of breath and I have to use a nebulizer in the mornings. When you're talking about the kids smoking, I do anti-smoking presentations all over the world. The kids are smoking more than ever, because the tobacco companies are now spending $12 billion a year in advertising to entice them to think that smoking is cool and to accept that illusion.

KING: I thought they're not allowed to pitch to children?

LANDERS: They're still doing it, Larry.

KING: Subtly -- or I'm sorry...

LANDERS: Subtly they're doing it. They're doing it in the movies, still with product placement. They're smoking more than ever on television, prime time and also the films. And they're doing it by giving away little hat, little Marlboro lighters and all the coupons that they can get over the Internet.

KING: Epatha.

MERKERSON: I remember when Joe Eszterhas quit smoking and was diagnosed, and the letter that he wrote about smoking and smoking in film and in television. And it really is important that that is dealt with. Because it is about young kids. If someone had told me that my friend would not be around to celebrate my 50th birthday with me, I would have called them a liar. This was a friend, and so when I talk to young people, that's what I say to them. Look at your friend. Think of your friend not being next to you. That's what cigarette smoking can do. And I think that film and television need to take responsibility for that as well.

KING: Now, Peter Jennings did say that he had smoked, stopped some time ago but went back on 9/11.

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: I'd like to let everybody know that I am a product of surviving cancer -- lung cancer at very young age, at 45-years-old. As Maya Angelou write, surviving is important, thriving is elegant. I'd like to tell Mr.... KING: Can't hear. You what did you say? Hello. Oh, I'm sorry. We lost her call. I hope you can get back in. We'll take a break and be back with more. Don't go away.


JENNINGS: Everywhere people were marking or being marked with a powder they called goolau (ph). It didn't matter who it was. They were only too happy to smear it on our faces. Happy holy. A real reminder that in many ways India is the most colorful country on earth. Now, we could have done without the dancing. But with the president here, we didn't want to make a bad impression.




SARAH BRADY, BATTLING CANCER: I'm not worried about myself.

KING: Not.

BRADY: Not right now. I feel very good. Am I being a Polyanna, I don't think so. I know that there's a chance that this will take me eventually.

KING: Still smoking?

BRADY: It's the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with is the smoking.

KING: You're still smoking?

BRADY: I try not to. But from time to time, yes.

KING: How many?

BRADY: More than I should.

KING: You're talking to a former three-pack-a-dayer, so how many do you smoke?

BRADY: I don't smoke near that much. But I did -- I used to smoke two packs a day.


KING: Dr. Natale a spokesman said that Peter Jennings had been feeling ill for a couple of months and underwent a number of tests before the diagnosis was made.

Why would you need a number of tests?

NATALE: Sometimes it's difficult to establish the diagnosis, Larry. Lung -- there's nothing specific about lung cancer in most people. There's a shadow in the lung, there's an infiltrate. It can look like pneumonia, it can behave like bronchitis. There's no simple straightforward test.

KING: Missisauga, Ontario.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, thanks for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: My name's David. I was just wonder, how do you convince somebody to quit smoking that you love and care for? Anybody on the panel.

KING: Lori -- Lori Downey, you've got a suggestion?

DOWNEY: It's a tough one. Because it's a strong addiction, that you really just have to let them know that you love them unconditionally. And if they gain five or 10 pounds you're still going to love them anyway. And if you just over love them, I think that's the easiest way to help somebody quit.

KING: Alan.

LANDERS: Take them to the cancer ward where the terminally ill patients are. I also, when I go around for the kids, I take my shirt off and I show them the scars. And as long as we're talking, I might as well -- I feel like the Bionic Man -- throw in, I have reconstructed voice box here, vocal cords from severed -- vocal cords from surgery, nodules taken out of my neck, nerve damage, live in pain. All as a result, to you kids out there that smoke, just from complications let alone the direct course of cancer from smoking. It is deadly.

KING: What do you say to people?

MERKERSON: It really is the most difficult thing to say, because it really has to come from the person. So you just have to be supportive. Give them the information when they -- you know, I do one talk to everybody that I know that smokes. And then I leave it alone.

KING: Tammy Faye do know people who smoke?

MESSNER: I know many people who smoke. My son used to smoke, and I asked him why. He said, mom, because it's my friend and it gives me courage. I don't think Jamie will ever smoke again after mom's had cancer.

KING: Alan, you do think it's your friend, though?

LANDERS: Yes. You also tell them that how much you love them. I remember Senator Lautenberg was in Washington, I was with him. He used to smoke. I said, why did you quit smoking? He said, because my little daughter got on my lap and started crying and said, I don't want you to die, daddy. He said, what's the matter, honey? And she said, well, I found out in school smoking causes lung cancer, and I want, papa, I need you. He said he never smoked again since then. Tell them how much you love them. It's a very selfish act, smoking. Not only do you kill yourself, but you break the hearts of all your loved ones.

KING: Well said. We'll be back with more on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE with the announcement today of Peter Jennings. We'll be right back.


JENNINGS: We talked to, from the generals to the general's drivers, said the most dangerous thing they faced is the improvised explosive device that is detonated by remote control when they drive or walk by.



KING: We go to Colona, Canada. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. Is it true that women are dying of lung cancer at a higher rate than breast cancer?

KING: Dr. Natale, is that true?

NATALE: Yes. Lung cancer passed breast cancer in 1988 in the United States as the most common cause of death from malignancy in women.

KING: Is it true that if we could eliminate lung cancer, a lot of -- more cancer would be curable? I mean, it adds to the death rate?

NATALE: Absolutely. Lung cancer is a huge killer. In fact, there are a lot of tobacco-related diseases that are responsible for the majority of deaths from illnesses. Heart disease, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, there's a whole host of diseases.

KING: You fight this every day, right?

NATALE: I try.

KING: Boy, I can only sympathize with what you go -- what do you say to people? How do you tell a patient -- and two of the patients on this show have heard those words, you have cancer. How do you that? How do you train for that?

NATALE: It's never easy, Larry. It's always, always painful. But what I try to immediately tell them is that there's hope. I've spent my career, as have many of my friends and colleagues around the country, trying to develop new treatments for lung cancer. And in the last 10 years we've made more progress than we ever have before, and the future is actually looking brighter.

KING: It was painful to watch Peter tonight. What is that that we're hearing, that hoarseness, what is that? NATALE: I'm not sure. It may be a reaction to the bronchoscopy that he may have undergone for the biopsies. So there may be irritation in his vocal cords, or it just may be inflammation in his lungs from the cancer.

KING: Were your friends in pain, Epatha?

MERKERSON: Yes, they were towards the end of it. They were both in pain from it. It was devastating to watch. I mean, there's -- if I say anything to kids, it is that, being with someone when they take their last breath.

KING: Tammy Faye, do you have any pain?

MESSNER: Yes, I still suffer very bad from pain in my bones.

KING: But it did not spread?

MESSNER: Not that I'm aware of. The doctor can't believe it, that it hasn't spread to my -- they say it generally goes to your liver. I never had any cancer in my liver nor any other part of my body.

KING: Is that true, doctor, it generally spreads to the liver?

NATALE: Liver is a common site for the spread of lung cancer, as is the brain, the adrenal glands, almost any organ in the body.

KING: Alan Landers, did you have a lot of pain?

LANDERS: Oy vey. I live in constant pain. It was very -- it was torture, it was hell on earth when they operated on me. They break your ribs, they crack your ribs open just to open it to put tubes in. But I live in pain. You just live with it. I thank God I'm alive. I'm one of the lucky ones. Most Marlboro men are dead, the Camel man, these were friends of mine. They're all dead. Every day I get up, I thank God. Let me go through this day with love in my heart, a sense of humor and a positive attitude. And I go bippity bopityboo. I'm a very happy man.

KING: Are cigars just as bad, Dr. Natale?

NATALE: Cigars are bad because the nicotine content is enormous. So the nicotine addiction from that high dose can be really difficult to satisfy by just continuing to smoke cigars. So many cigar smokers ultimately have to turn to cigarettes.

KING: Was Mort in a lot of pain in the end, Lori?

DOWNEY: He was in a lot of pain, and you know what's really interesting is he basically had a lot of Vicodin. What he did was he went to his dentist and got Vicodin from his dentist. He went to his doctors, he got it off the street. And, after he passed away, I realized there was so much Vicodin in the house that I guess he was in a lot of pain all the time.

KING: Must have been. Must have been. And what's your Web site again, Epatha?


KING: And you had what kind of shots, Alan?

LANDERS: I had to get nerve block shots. I went for six months, I had such pain they had to shoot me up with 30 shots a day, and I had to lie in a vat with ice packs all over my body for like four hours a day. That's the kind of pain we're talking about.

KING: Thank you all very much. Dr. Natale, thanks for your expertise.

NATALE: Thank you, Larry.

KING: We salute all you do. We thank Tammy Faye Messner, Lori Downey, Alan Landers, S. Epatha Merkerson and Dr. Ronald Natale for joining us tonight as we learned of the lung cancer that has afflicted Peter Jennings.

Our special guest tomorrow night is Jane Fonda.

We thank you very much for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. He's still in Rome carrying forth. He'll host "NEWSNIGHT" from Rome, saw him earlier today, Aaron Brown. There he is, steadfast and steady.

Mr. Brown, the table is yours.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.