Andrew Youssef Talks About His Last Shot Column in His Own Words
Andrew Youssef will be remembered for a lot of things, not least of which was his ability to make a reporter's job exponentially easier by being an astute, thoughtful human being, even under the most difficult circumstances. Throughout his entire career, Youssef was used to being the one asking questions, listening, gabbing valuable information and relaying it to his readers. But when he decided to start his Last Shot column, which would eventually lead to a cover story on his life, suddenly he was the one having the reporter's lens turned on him. We had the pleasure of doing an in depth interview with Youssef in which, among other things, he talked about how his column and how thankful he was for the impact it had on both himself and those who followed it. Here now are some lasting thoughts from the man, the myth, the legend--in his own words.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): What was it like writing that first column? What was going through your mind?
Andrew Youssef: It was like "Do I jump into this pool and tell everybody and let the world know?" It was obviously very scary. Obviously a few people had known about my cancer diagnosis, but even when I was announcing that I was on a medical hiatus...ya know it's not really cool to go "Oh, I have colon cancer" versus lung cancer or whatever kind of cancer. There's still a stigma there unfortunately and I'd been through so much at that point. And then on the news you'd keep seeing this person dying of colon cancer or this person being diagnosed with colon cancer, it was difficult to keep seeing that, maybe now is a time to step up and get this dialogue out in the open, so I sat down and wrote the column. It was difficult to write but once it was out there, it was out there. And the feedback from people who responded to the column was incredible. I literally remembered that day it was published I was literally on my laptop all day responding to people via Twitter, Facebook, email and everyone who shared it...literally from like 9 a.m. to at least 7-8 p.m., it was like "Ok maybe I did do the right thing to bring it out to the public."
Reading your column, you detail the ups and downs of fighting cancer. What was it like bearing all of that?
Yeah, there was that column I wrote about the roller coaster of cancer. I used to keep an active chart on my iPad, like a spread sheet of all my lab values and my tumor levels and there was a time, I'd say a year and a half out where I actually had normal tumor levels. I was I guess you could say, in remission, for a couple weeks. But when they did the CT and PET scan, it showed that I had disease and that it hadn't retracted. It was staying stable, it wasn't really growing, but it wasn't reflecting what my tumor levels had indicated. At that point I was thinking, "That was easy, boom I just knock it down to normal, just stay on chemo, that's not a big deal." But cancer is a nasty terrorist and it basically changed the way it attacked and just continued spread and found a way to beat that regiment of medications I was on. It is a roller coaster you keep going through but after a while you try to keep the highs not so high and the lows not so low to try to balance yourself out because there's nothing really certain about the whole process of cancer.
Journalism is a very small community and a lot of people. What kind of reaction did you tend to get from colleagues as you kept seeing them at shows?
It's great that the community has been so supportive. A lot of people when I first came back, a lot of people were surprised and happy to see me and it was great to feel so welcomed back. Even now at the end of my show going, people are always really glad to see me and wanted to know how I was doing. I'm fortunate that the column gave me the format to update people, so I didn't have to recite the same story 50 thousand times which is one of the very difficult things for cancer patients. And I'm grateful that I have that platform to tell people and spread that word. And the feedback I would get would always be great. I remember some of my friends would be on Twitter "Oh, it was great seeing Andrew in the photo pit tonight" or getting that support form that community was always great. Even support from the publicists and the venues, because they understand that we work a tireless job. We're up long hours and work late at night, slaving away writing reviews and taking pictures. And we do it because we love it and the community is a great community, even between rival publications, we're all battling the same war and we form a brotherhood and sisterhood of sorts that gives that unique bond.