If you’re flipping channels on Tuesday, Jan. 25, and catch Neil Cavuto as the anchor of Fox Business Network’s (FBN) coverage of the State of the Union address, and you watch him asking questions, raising points, juggling guests, you may not realize that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late ”90s, after surviving a serious bout with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the late ’80s.
As senior vice president, anchor and managing editor of business news for both Fox News Channel (FNC) and FBN, with two daily shows — “Your World With Neil Cavuto” on FNC, and “Cavuto” on FBN, along with “Cavuto on Business” on Saturday mornings on FNC — the genial, bespectacled 52-year-old has a workload that could crush someone much younger who’s not a cancer survivor with another chronic ailment.
“I’m reminded every day of what I’ve got,” says Cavuto, whose raspy voice on the call to Zap2it is one of his MS symptoms. “No one needs to tell me, and I know it’s a progressive disease. I tend not to focus on it. I’m well aware of the restrictions on me. Days when it gets really bad, and [liberal FNC commentator] Alan Colmes makes sense, then I know things are bad.
“But in all seriousness, I just try to take it day by day. If I can help anyone with MS or a disease and say, ‘It’s really your attitude,’ then I’m doing a service, not by constantly yapping about it, but by doing my job.”
But, Cavuto is no superman, and when he learned that he’d defied monumental odds to have both cancer and MS, he threw himself a good pity party. Then some of the people he’d met over his years of covering business for CNBC and for PBS’ “Nightly Business Report” before that, came to his aid.
The result of that was his 2004 book, “More Than Money: True Stories of People Who’ve Learned Life’s Ultimate Lesson,” in which he profiles people in the business world that have faced far worse things than a bad balance sheet.
“After I was diagnosed,” he says, “of course, like everyone in the media
— you might find this shocking — I was slightly self-absorbed. And I
said, ‘Why me? Why me?’
“A part of my inspiration for the book was I would get letters and cards and phone calls from friends of mine, and a lot of the CEOs I had covered over the years, who knew I had cancer prior, saying, ‘Oh, Neil, I’m sorry, this is such a bitch that you’re dealing with.’ But then they would remind me of nonsense that had happened in their lives.
“There was one who had been treated for AIDS, another who had brain cancer, and another whose child had died in automobile accident. Long story short, I put together a book, like a modern-day ‘Profiles of Courage.’
“I think people were inspired, not by me, but [by knowing] people can get through heavy stuff. All people deal with various baggages in their lives, some more than others.”
For example, Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently stepped back again from his job, as he did before to be treated for pancreatic cancer that had spread to his liver. Jobs had a liver transplant and returned to work. The exact medical reason for this leave is not known.
Cavuto recalls interviewing Jobs back when he was still working at CNBC.
“I had him on his first incarnation at Apple,” Cavuto says, “long before the iPad and the iPod and the iPhone, ay-yi-yi. He as a very prickly but clearly dedicated genius, but he was not one to suffer fools gladly. I distinctly remember getting a statistic wrong, and he lost it — just lost it. I learned a thing or two then.
“The guy’s a genius. Say what you will — prickly, maybe arrogant. But I hope he’s going to be OK. He’s quite an impressive fellow.”