In a new book, "Lessons for Dylan," ABC News' Entertainment Editor Joel Siegel passes on life lessons to his son, Dylan, who was born as Siegel fought cancer. He shared his story on 20/20 and answered questions from ABCNEWS.com readers.
The story drew an enormous response from readers wishing Joel well. Joel has recently been given a clean bill of health until his next CAT-scan and colonoscopy, and is living cancer-free, as far as his doctors can tell. Here is a selection of questions Joel received, and his responses.
Rose, from Minooka, Pa., writes: Can you discuss how religion or spirituality helped you through such difficult times? Thanks.
Joel Siegel: I've always been fairly religious but never thought of myself that way, and it wasn't my reactions to my disease that brought out those feelings but watching Dylan being born and seeing him grow. As I write in the introduction to the book we have a picture of Dylan (who was an in vitro baby) when he was 6-cells old. I quote John Glenn when he first circled the earth in a satellite: it's impossible to look at this and not believe in God.
Bob, from Morristown, N.J., writes: Did you work the entire time you were being treated? How did people at work treat you? Were they supportive?
Joel: Not the whole time, I took time off after surgery, but through most of the chemo and radiation I did go to work. I had a wig made which I hated to wear and only put on when I was on the air. I was on chemotherapy through infusion, I had a port in my chest attached to a small bag filled with chemicals pumped out by a computer. I'd hide it behind me when I went on the air.
The people I work with could not have been better or more supportive. They didn't make a big deal of it either, which was also appreciated.
When I would finish and walk out of the room, though, I was told that some of the stage hands and camera people — big, burly, man-mountain kind of people — would break down and cry.
Panda, from Arlington, Mass., writes: I'm glad you're doing better. My question is: Now that the book is out, how much does Dylan understand about your illness? Does he know you wrote a book for him?
Joel: Yes, Dylan knows I wrote a book. He knew I was writing a book but I wasn't sure he knew what that meant. When he saw the finished book, though, and held it, he knew what it was. His eyes got big as saucers, he looked up at me and asked "Who else's daddy ever wroted him a book?" That was worth it all.
Nichol Hohenbrink, Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I've been watching you on GMA for years, Joel. This isn't really a question, but I wanted to let you know that both you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
Joel: Thank you so much, it is most appreciated. And it helps, you know. More than one scientific study has shown that prayer helps people get well.
Mary O'Brien, Las Vegas, Nev., writes: Thinking ahead, what would you like to say to your family and fans about your best advice for the future? (I wish you the best and am so sorry you will not be around for a long time to brighten our days. Thanks for everything you have done to date, and especially for remaining true to your ideals and ethics.)
Joel: The good thing about cancer (and yes there are good things) is the way it helps you prioritize your life. You learn what is important — love, family, friends, being nice to the other people we share this earth with, being nice to the earth, too. That's the lesson — to live that way without having to go through the pain. My friend Gilda Radner put it this way: If it weren't for the downside, everybody would want to have cancer. But there is a heck of a downside.
Kristie, of Staten Island, N.Y., writes: What do you want Dylan to take away from your book? What was your key motivation to putting your life into words for your son? Did you want to give Dylan a better sense of "who dad is", or are there lessons you want Dylan to pull from your words? What are your hopes for Dylan?
Joel: I want Dylan to know who I was — the way I knew who my father was. I want him to remember me laughing — the best memories of my dad. And, most of all, I want him to know how much I love him.
Walter Crosby, of Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Joel, I understand the motivation of writing the book. I lost my middle son who was 8 years old to cancer in 2001, then was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer Rhabdomyosarcoma in the neck. After multimodal treatment I am cancer free, but left me without my voice. Precious is every day I can spend with my surviving children. God Bless
Joel: Thank you for your note. But, sorry, you didn't lose your voice. Your note speaks loudly and eloquently.
Perry, of Oxford, Ohio, writes: All the best to you man. I had Hodgkins 13 years ago, radiation and it came back. Chemo, and its gone. They thought it was back two years ago and just the thought damn near killed me. It's hard, hang in there, keep breathing, and hold onto your loved ones. And find the good nurses, they're the angels!
Joel: Yes, yes, yes. I write about the nurses, one in particular, oops, make that two in particular, who made me believe I could get through it. One was a colostomy nurse at New York Hospital, the other gave me my chemo. I don't know how they get through it, though. Think about how many friends they lose every year.
Holly Veloz, of Merced, Calif., writes: I don't have a question, But a prayer, That God give you more time with your son and wife. My prayers are with you and your family. In GOD all things are possible. Just belive, and trust. Kind Regards
Joel: Thank you so much, it is most appreciated.
Linda Flores, of Battle Mountain, Nev., writes: Hi Joel, I can hardly wait to read your book. My son has terminal cancer also, brain glioblastoma,phase lV, the worst kind of brain cancer there is, he has has chemo many, many times, radiation, two surgeries, and possibly awaiting another surgery, the doctor told him Monday the 23rd, that they would NOT be giving him anymore chemo that it wasn't doing any good, and that basically there was nothing left that they could do for him & only gives him a very few days, and he is only 36 years old, I really don't know how to handle it. This has been so devastating for our whole family, he has two daughters,also, how do you deal with this and telling his children that their Daddy is dying is just more than we can take, and he is our only son.. You take care and hang in there. my thoughts and prayers are w/ you and your entire family at this time.
Joel: I am so sorry to hear about your son. My wife, Jane, died of a glioblastoma 20 years ago. I think about her every day. Things do get better, honestly. Soon you will remember the good times, the healthy times, not just the hard times. How old are your granddaughters? After Jane died, Gene Wilder and I started Gilda's Club for Gilda Radner. Try their Web site, at least you can find someone who has gone through what you are going through and can share.
K. Bouryal, of New Jersey, writes: The wife of a close firefighter friend we lost on 9/11 learned she was pregnant just days after she buried her husband. For that now-single mom, it is important that her child maintains relationships with the men who knew her late husband best. She says, "those men are the ones that will help my child learn who daddy was, and help his legacy to live on." If — God forbid — your life were cut short who would help Dylan carry on your legacy? And what legacy would that be?
Joel: That is why I wrote the book, so Dylan would know me.
Holly Williams, of Annapolis, Md., writes: Joel, What can friends say or do that helps, especially upon first hearing your news? What is the wrong thing to say or do? Good luck, my TV friend of many years!
Joel: Just say good luck and, most important, call me your friend.
Debbie Fuehrer, of Rochester, Minn., writes: How do you explain to your son about life being so unfair? (I'm praying for you and your family … if that means anything to you, but it's something I can do for you, as a stranger, from afar.)
Joel: Honestly, I don't think life is unfair. I can't. So many good things, amazing things, wonderful things have happened to me. I write Dylan in the introduction that my life has been so extraordinary I realized in my room at NY Hospital that if I had to give it up, I was able to. (I wrote that my room looked out at the East River. My grandmother, an immigrant from Rumania, would walk across the Williamsburg Bridge and cross that river six days a week to work in a sweatshop and I, her grandson, has been invited to the White House, met three Presidents, and didn't vote for any of them.) And, in realizing it was OK to die, found the strength to live. I feel sometimes like a walking greeting card and real life, certainly, is deeper and more complicated than a glib sentence or two, but, basically, that is true.
Retta, of Vancouver, Wash., writes: Beat that cancer Joel, my mom just made it through, I know you can too! I've been watching you on Good Morning America since I was a little girl. Even when I lived in Montana and only got one TV station we still were able to hear your movie reviews and comments. I have a 5 year old son myself, and I pray for you. I can't imagine what you are going through but know you have a lot of prayers being said for you. God Bless You and Dylan!
Joel: If you have a 5-year-old you know, too, that every day is a miracle. And out West, where you live, that's especially true (I grew up in L.A., my dad loved camping, we spent a great week on Flathead Lake in Montana when I was about 10 or 11. And my feeling is of course I'd love to take Dylan to Flathead Lake when he's 10 or 11, camp out and fish for salmon trout. But if I can't I will have told him about it and one day he may get there on his own and, if he does, he'll think of me.
Dalia Massen, of Port Jefferson, N.Y., writes: Dear Joel, I watched you speak about the importance of conveying the meaning and importance of Judaism to your son,during a recent interview. I admire your approach and comfort in being Jewish.You instantly become a role model for Jews and gentile alike. You reached the age of wisdom, lucky!! I believe that when you face mortality, you become aware of the agenda that is ahead of you , in a clearer and more focused way.You are leaving a legacy for your son in the future to reflect back and appreciate his father, regardless of that parent's life expectancy.I wish you good health and happiness always. I especially treasure you storytelling gift that you have share with us all (i.e. Martin Luther Jr.'s brown bag story).
Joel: Thank you so much. I'm not so sure I've reached the age of wisdom, but at least I've been able to discover what is important.