NBC Former Anchor Tom Brokaw Plans Ahead
Two years after their TEDx talk, the unexpected happened. Tom Brokaw was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer that attacks the spine. After the initial shock wore off, Brokaw worked with his doctors on a treatment plan to manage the disease. He opted against a stem cell transplant operation because of his age, the risks involved, and the long and difficult recuperation period.3 His daughter Jennifer says that advance care planning gave him important guidance and psychological preparation for the critical decisions he needed to make. “He was able to think about this cancer in a less scary and more organized way,” she said.
A recent study at a major palliative care symposium shows that having end-of-life conversations with patients can reduce their stress and anxieties.4 Tom Brokaw was fortunate to have a doctor in his family as his patient advocate. The vast majority of Americans do not have conversations about end-of-life care with their doctors,5 particularly people who are younger, poorer, minority, and less educated.6 Death is an uncomfortable topic for most people. Dr. Jennifer Brokaw says many doctors tend to shy away from delivering bad news.