• 2009 Fall/Winter Paths of Progress

    What I Know: Joyce Kulhawik
    As told to Kara Lacey

    Joyce KulhawikJoyce Kulhawik 

    For almost 30 years, Joyce Kulhawik kept a pulse on the scene from Hollywood to Broadway as the Emmy-winning arts and entertainment reporter for WBZ-TV in Boston.

    Today, after beating melanoma once and ovarian cancer twice, Kulhawik largely focuses on speaking out about cancer through organizations like the American Cancer Society.

    A former patient at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, Kulhawik tells Paths of Progress what she has learned.

    Phil Donahue saved my life. I was watching his show in 1979 and one of the guests was a woman with cancer that had begun with a mole on her leg. Of course, I looked down and staring back up at me was a big mole on my leg. I thought, gee, I should get that checked out.

    When they told me I might lose my hair, I thought that could be fun. I didn't actually lose hair, and there was a little corner of me that was disappointed. Isn't that the craziest thing? When else can you try out a wild hairstyle risk-free?

    I want to be here until the very last second. I am aggressive in my life because I think this attitude really saved me.

    I'm hungry for film. I could see a movie in the morning, break for lunch, then go to a double feature in the afternoon. That would be my perfect day.

    Good doctors welcome second opinions. They don't run from them, they don't dissuade you, they facilitate. If a doctor makes a mistake, you bear the consequences. It's your life. You have to own it.

    I can laugh out loud by myself in a big theater.

    It never occurred to me that I couldn't do anything that I absolutely wanted to do.

    There is a tremendous amount of love and support out there and you don't know until you really need it. I'm so glad I let people in. I needed them, and they needed to help.

    All I wanted to do during treatment was take a walk outside in the woods again. The things you start to feel grateful for are amazing. It's something I never forget.

    Pay strong attention to what your body tells you. I wouldn't be sitting here right now if I hadn't.

    Speaking to people about cancer under the right circumstances can be very powerful for them and for me. If you don't think you can survive, you won't, but seeing someone who has survived may make you start to think you can.

    I had a relatively easy road. It takes bravery and courage to keep going year after year after year. Hats off to those people.

    Have fun. Be with the people you love. The laundry can wait!

    Don't ever use the word "bomb" when you're talking to a big star about one of his film flops.

    I knew when to lean on doctors and when not to. As time goes on you get more confident and healthier. I am always on the lookout, but …

    Don't live in fear. I never did.

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