Leroy Sievers is living on borrowed time.
The former exec producer of “Nightline” was diagnosed with cancer in his brain and lungs a year ago, the kind that can be slowed but probably not stopped. He was given months to live.
Sievers, who still works with former “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel at Discovery Channel and NPR, started working on a documentary about his fight. Initially, both men thought the docu would air on Discovery posthumously. They jokingly referred to it as “Sundays With Leroy.”
But the patient has hung in there through three courses of chemotherapy, and it now appears Sievers might live to see the docu air in March.
“With so many of these stories you can’t help but do them in a clinical, impersonal way; you try to keep yourself as aloof and removed from it as you can,” Koppel says. “This is more about watching a close friend deal with a cancer from which he may not recover.”
Still, Sievers and Koppel want the doc to be brutally honest, no matter how difficult that becomes. Two weeks ago, Koppel and producer Elissa Rubin interviewed Sievers’ oncologist at Johns Hopkins while he had the tumor-killing poisons pumped into his body.
Something his oncologist said caused Sievers to snap out of his chemo-induced haze: “The cancer is going to kill him,” the doctor told Koppel.
Having been given just months to live, Sievers was accustomed to that assessment, but there was something tougher about hearing it aloud for both he and Koppel.
“I felt like I’d been slapped,” Sievers wrote in a daily blog, My Cancer, which has attracted a loyal following at NPR.org.
Sievers is taking a break from the chemo for the holidays. It’s a risk; the last time he took a respite, a new tumor turned up on his spine. The upside is he feels well enough to work, which is something the growing fan base for his blog, and his monthly commentaries on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” will appreciate.
There is no master plan for fighting the disease. Rather, each new circumstance brings another unpleasant choice. Koppel and the cameras will be there as each one is made, for better or for worse.