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View Diary: Olbermann Gets Ass Chewing by MSNBC Exec (235 comments)

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    OLBERMANN:  To that point, the story now of somebody who quite probably should have been in Peter Jennings`s shoes, except for dumb, undeserved luck.  Me.

    So, I thought as I was hunched over, spitting blood into the garbage can in my office half an hour before the newscast, this is it.  This is cancer.  It gets uglier, I understood that, so ugly that those who have survived it can`t even describe how much uglier it gets.

    Still, that imagery that I want to have stick in your mind is pretty good.  They`ve just had to cut something out from inside your body because they think it`s cancer, and because it doesn`t heal up right away, every couple of hours, the coagulation breaks and your mouth fills up with blood, and all of a sudden, hunching over a garbage can spitting it out is the best available option.

    I`m not doing some sort of bad taste "What if" on the passing of Peter Jennings.  I have had a tumor removed from the roof of my mouth.  It was benign.  That makes all the difference in the world, of course, except for the part where it doesn`t make any difference because I was in that position, spitting globs of myself into a garbage can in Seacaucus, New Jersey, entirely through my own doing, my own fault.

    And maybe there is the chance that if the loss of Peter Jennings has not impacted you sufficiently, maybe if you listen to my story, you might get smart enough in a hurry or scared enough in a hurry so that you don`t wind up spitting blood into the garbage can and spending five days, like me, thinking you had cancer or having it.

    There are some things in life you don`t have much control over--terrorism, lightning, even cancer, when it runs in your family or when you just get it.  But that`s not what this tumor was, the one that for five very long days had me convinced I had cancer.  This was from me smoking pipes and cigars for 27 years.  And if you work for a company that produces or sells pipes and cigars and you are recoiling defensively and saying, You don`t know that, let me quote Robert Novak.  Bull.  I do, too, know that.

    The place where this thing grew on the roof of my mouth was precisely above the spot where the end of the cigar or the tip of the pipe would sit nearly every time I`ve smoked.  I`ve been smoking, with the first place the smoke connected with my tissue right in this one spot in my mouth, since Jimmy Carter was president.  So yes, biologically speaking, smoking caused that tumor on the roof of my mouth.  Behaviorally speaking, I caused that tumor, period.

    It`s not like that thing they cut out of me a week ago last Friday just appeared overnight, either.  It was there no later than 1991, and a dentist told me then, Either quit smoking, stupid, or keep an eye this or both because that thing could be pre-cancerous.  But no, until my current dentist, Bob Schwartz (ph), said, This thing`s changed, go see an oral surgeon, I knew better.  Both my grandfathers, I like to say, lived into their 80s.  And in the last weeks of their lives, they both walked into town to get a haircut and some cigars.  And that would be good enough for me.

    Well, maybe that would have been good enough for me, except the point is this.  They cut something out of your mouth.  It`s a benign fibrous tumor.  They have to cauterize your mouth with a laser.  You wind up spitting blood like Rocky Balboa in front of Burgess Meredith.  You spend five days thinking about the radiation and the chemo to come.  And by the way, ten days later, your mouth still hurts and it`ll probably all be healed in six weeks, and that`s if you`re lucky, so lucky that you start jumping up and down and singing "Happy Days Are Here Again."  Imagine if it were bad news.  My oral surgeon, Andre Mark (ph), admits now he feared the worst.  And worse still, the last guy to see him before me, the last smoker with a tumor in his mouth--his was lymphoma B, cancer.  No unexpected good luck for him.

    Maybe if you`re still sitting there smoking right now, this will make you think.  And even if you sense there`s already something wrong, don`t wait.  Oral cancers are survivable at a rate of 80 to 90 percent.  Get your dentist to give you a simple screening.  Even lung cancer you can do something about, if you do something about it.

    Since that lovely evening I spent hunched over my garbage can, I have changed in a couple of ways, but most notably in this way.  When I see somebody smoking, I want to smack the cigarette or the cigar or the pipe out of their mouth.  And then I want to smack them.  I understand about the addiction and how they hook you and all of that.  I`m a smoker, remember?

    But consider something I had to consider last week.  It would be terrible enough to have cancer, but on top of it, you`d have cancer and you`d have to stop smoking at the same time.  Guess what?  It`s easier to stop smoking when you do not have cancer.  Ever thought of that before?

    Anyway, we are all sad about Peter Jennings.  Me, I feel sad and guilty.  But if his death has saddened you and you smoke and you want to do something about it, something for him, stop smoking.  Or get somebody else to stop smoking.  Break the pipe or throw away the chaw or flush the butts or leave the cigar in the cigar store.  Buy the gum, buy the patch, get them to tie your arms behind your back until you stop smoking.  Do whatever you have to do to stop smoking.  Now.  While it`s easier.  So you don`t have to stop smoking while you have cancer.  Or while you are sitting there spitting into a garbage can, praying that you do not.

    That`s COUNTDOWN.  Please stay tuned next for the premiere of "RITA COSBY LIVE AND DIRECT" here on MSNBC.  I`m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night, and good luck.

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