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Dr. Roboz and Patient Delia Ephron Interviewed on CBS News Sunday Morning: Leukemia, Loss, and Love

Interviewed by Dr. Jonathan LaPook of CBS News’s Sunday Morning, Dr. Gail Roboz’s patient, Delia Ephron, shared her experiences after learning she had leukemia in 2017.

Delia Ephron and her sister, Nora Ephron, cowrote the 1998 romcom, “You’ve Got Mail.” Since that time, Delia has been living her own story line that has taken many turns: the loss of her sister, Nora, to leukemia in 2012, the loss of her husband, Jerome Kass, to cancer in 2015, and then learning of her own diagnosis of leukemia in 2017. But then, a happy ending.

Dr. Gail Roboz

Dr. Gail Roboz, Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology, WDOM, and Director of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Leukemia Program, had been cautiously monitoring Delia’s blood test results in light of a subtle abnormality identified during the evaluation of her sister. Delia’s blood tests had been looking stable for eight years and she felt entirely well.

Then one day, unexpectedly, the blood test came back showing acute leukemia, and it would not be easy for Dr. Roboz to break this news to Delia. As she explained in the CBS interview, “I think I wanted to run away. The shock of this, I gotta tell you, it’s a gut punch for us, and it’s a gut punch to the patient.”

Dr. Roboz immediately began chemotherapy for Delia, and, subsequently, Delia received a stem cell transplant through the Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program, Division of Hematology and Medicine Oncology, WDOM, under the care of Dr. Koen van Besien. As plans for the stem cell transplant began, Delia was informed that she had a 20% survival rate.

There would be difficult times ahead, and, at one point, Delia expressed to Dr. Roboz, “I just want out. I can’t take it anymore.” Dr. Roboz asked Delia for 48 more hours, urging her to hang in there.

Fast forward to today, Dr. Roboz is happy to report that Delia has had no evidence of leukemia on any test for four years.

There had been other good news for Delia. While the medical situation unfolded, something wonderful had been happening. After writing an editorial about disconnecting her late husband’s landline, Delia soon received an email from Dr. Peter Rutter. The two had gone on a date 54 years earlier, and this new connection would ultimately lead to love and marriage. In fact, Dr. Rutter was at Delia’s side throughout her illness, and they were married in the hospital while she was in the midst of her treatment.

“Part of the amazingness of getting that first email was that he said that Nora had set us up. I mean, I just couldn’t believe it. It was like she was reaching down to me,” said Delia.

Delia Ephron has written about the diagnosis in her new best-selling memoir, “Left on Tenth” (Little, Brown).

The inspiring interview on CBS includes conversations with Delia Ephron, her husband, Dr. Peter Rutter, and her physician, Dr. Gail Roboz.