Fighting cancer, 98 Rock's Lopez to stay on air

March 02, 2004|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN COLUMNIST

Bob Lopez, long-time radio personality at 98 Rock (WIYY-FM) and a member of the popular Kirk, Mark & Lopez morning show, announced on air yesterday that he has advanced lung cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.

Lopez, 50, told listeners by phone from his room at Greater Baltimore Medical Center that the cancer was diagnosed two weeks ago, after tests to determine the cause of blood clots found in his legs.

The 26-year veteran of the hard-rock station said he first began experiencing pain and swelling in his legs in late December. The symptoms persisted and he checked into the hospital two weeks ago, when the blood clots were discovered and a diagnosis of adeno carcinoma followed.

"I was surprised," Lopez said in a phone interview after yesterday's show. "I thought with lung cancer you coughed up blood one day and you go to the doctor and they take an X-ray and you have cancer all over your chest. It didn't happen that way."

Although news of Lopez's cancer was first announced Sunday night on WBAL-TV 11 news by anchor Rod Daniels - WBAL-AM is the sister station of 98 Rock - Lopez told his listeners of his condition in a phone-in chat with fellow morning personalities Kirk McEwen and Mark Ondayko yesterday.

"I live on the radio and this is my life," said Lopez of his decision to go public. "Why hide it? What's the point? ... Paradoxically, this is kind of an adventure for me."

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Lopez joined 98 Rock as the morning newsman in 1978 after three years at WLMD in Laurel. According to a WIYY biography, he has survived 14 morning-show lineup changes over the years, and his relentlessly liberal political viewpoints have delighted and infuriated listeners.

Stephanie Drummond, producer of the Kirk, Mark & Lopez show, said listener response to Lopez's cancer announcement, in the form of phone calls and e-mails, was "overwhelming."

"It's been a huge outpouring," she said. "People feel they've known Lopez as a part of their family for 26 years."

Drummond said several dozen former cancer patients, and listeners who had family members with cancer, had contacted the station with advice on coping with the disease and the effects of chemotherapy.

Drummond also said that radio equipment and a Web cam have been installed in Lopez's home, and that Lopez will continue to appear from there on the morning show when he's released from the hospital.

Lopez, who said he was a smoker for 20 years but gave up the habit years ago, said the cancer in his lung "is very small, about the size of a lima bean. [But] it's an aggressive tumor."

He said his wife of 20 years, Trixie, and 12-year-old daughter, Leandra, were "handling" the news of his diagnosis.

"My daughter asked me `Are you gonna die?' " Lopez said. "Not in a weepy way. It was like `Gimme a straight answer.' "

Lopez said survival rates associated with various late-stage cancers "are bandied about too much. Every cancer doctor will tell you these are all individual cases."

He said that in addition to chemotherapy, there were several treatment options available "and we're going to try them all."

"I'm optimistic," he said, but added: "Even assuming this is going to get me, which it probably will [eventually], there are a lot worse ways to go.

"Compared to a lot of other things that I've been afraid of, this is not that bad."

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