No Such Thing as a Bad Day with Hamilton Jordan

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Former Carter White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan has battled three different types of cancer. Join him when he talks about what has kept him going through it all.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Greetings and welcome to WebMD Live! Our guest this evening is Hamilton Jordan, author of "No Such Thing as a Bad Day." Jordan is a three-time cancer survivor and former Carter White House Chief-of-Staff. We will be discussing his personal battle with cancer.

Moderator: Welcome Mr. Jordan!

Hamilton Jordan: It's good to be here.

Moderator: I was curious about the title of your latest book "No Such Thing as a Bad Day." How can you, of all people, proclaim such a thing?

Hamilton Jordan: Well, I was counseling a young man who had a brain tumor, and I called him one day, and I asked him, "Are you having a good day?" and he said, "Well, my wife is 32 yrs. old, my kids are 4 and 6, and my doctor tells me I have about two months to live. There's no such thing as a bad day."

Hamilton Jordan: It was that attitude about life that I've tried to reflect and write about in my book.

Moderator: Have you always that attitude?

Hamilton Jordan: No. I've not always had it, but I've certainly had it since I've had these several cancers.

Moderator: What was your first cancer?

Hamilton Jordan: The first was lymphoma. Which I will always believe I got from exposure to Agent Orange, when I was in Vietnam.

Hamilton Jordan: I had a sports injury which disqualified me from the military draft, and I went to Vietnam as a volunteer, and Peace Corp type organization. While working in Vietnam, the war was everywhere, I was exposed to agent Orange, which scientists later believed causes this type of lymphoma that I had.

Moderator: Has it been found to cause any other cancers?

Hamilton Jordan: I can't say definitively, but there's an inordinately large number of Vietnam veterans who have the same type of lymphoma that I have, and it's been demonstrated that it's linked to Agent Orange.

mold28_webmd: Why did you decide to such a radical procedure like having your prostate completely removed. Did you even consider seed implantation?

Hamilton Jordan: Well, the decision as to what to do when you have PCa is a tough one, and respect the fact the different decisions of different men. Because I believed my prostate cancer was confined to my prostate, I did a lot of research, and concluded that for me, the surgical removal of the prostate was the best choice. I didn't make that decision lightly. I studied a lot of the literature, and talked to a lot of people.

Moderator: What was your reaction to your first diagnosis of cancer?

Hamilton Jordan: When you have a diagnosis of cancer, or any serious illness, your choices are basically to be passive, and kind of accept whatever is offered you, or to be active and to learn about your disease, and understand your options, and be an active partner with your doctor. That's the course I took with all three of my cancers.

Hamilton Jordan: It's an interesting thing. We know more about our cars and computers than we do our own bodies. Very few of us would buy the first car we saw, or marry the first person we have a date with, but oftentimes people with a serious disease will accept the first treatment offered by the first doctor. I think that's sometimes a mistake.

Hamilton Jordan: Well, when I had my first cancer, there was no internet, so most of it was literature. Although there was MedLine service, and the cancer institute had a service but it was looking at literature, and calling knowledgeable people, hospitals and centers, and describing my situation, and asking them how they would treat me. Asking how broad their experience was with the disease that I had, asking tough questions about statistics. I'm not a different case. Most medical centers prefer to talk to doctors, and not patients. You have to be persistent and tough-minded. You're fighting for you life. You have to be tough; you cannot be passive.

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