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West Wing's Rob Lowe

This award-winning actor is educating people on the side effects of chemotherapy.

by Julie McKenna

For over two decades, celebrities have entrusted Coping® to tell the world about their personal experience with cancer. We are proud to present this exclusive interview from our archives and hope that it will inspire and encourage all who read it. This article was originally published in Coping with Cancer magazine, July/August 2002.

Celebrity Cancer Survivor

Rob (left) and his father, Chuck, filming the By My Side video.
(photo by Mark Harris, Amgen)

Rob Lowe has teamed up with Amgen to launch By My Side™: Taking Charge of Cancer Treatment, a multi-media education program to raise awareness about infections and other chemotherapy side effects. Already a spokesperson for breast cancer awareness, Rob is now getting the message out about the risk of chemotherapy side effects after his father, Chuck, developed an infection while he was taking chemotherapy for lymphoma. "It was really scary for us," says Rob. "Although chemotherapy was the miracle that ultimately saved my father's life, there was its side effect that we were unprepared for."

The By My Side program offers information about Amgen's Neulasta™ (pegfilgrastim), a prescription medication that boosts the body's own natural infection-fighting white blood cells to help protect people against infections.

After what his father went through, Rob is eager to help get the message out about the side effects of chemotherapy and what people can do about it.

"Infection forced my dad to stop his chemotherapy. When he was told that his treatment had to be stopped, he didn't know it was because of infection. He thought it was because the chemo wasn't working and the cancer was winning," says Rob. "I'm hoping to encourage people, whether by visiting the Web site or by calling the number, to let us send them the By My Side package - it's free. And it's just an amazing source of knowledge for everybody who is going to be going through or who is going through chemo. I know it would have been tremendously valuable to my dad had it been around. And I'm hoping that cancer patients will use it as a tool to really be proactive in their treatment."

Rob Lowe has received an Emmy nomination, two Golden Globe nominations and has won the Screen Actor's Guild's Best Ensemble award two years in a row for the TV show, The West Wing. Rob's enthusiasm as a cancer advocate even came up in a recent episode of The West Wing, where Rob's character, Sam Seaborn, writes an addition to President Bartlett's State of the Union address announcing a goal for the country to cure cancer in the next decade.

After what his father went through, Rob is eager to help get the message out about the side effects of chemotherapy and what people can do about it. "Educate yourself," Rob urges. "When you go see your oncologist, already have your list of questions you want to ask. And do the research before you go. Use By My Side, use the Internet, and if you're not up to it, and frankly there are probably a lot of people who aren't - there were times my dad wasn't - then you've got to lean on your family or your friends."

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By My Side offers free information on the "visible" side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and hair loss, the "hid- den" side effects, such as infection and emotional duress, and provides tips on preventing or managing them. The information is available by visiting www.ByMySide.com.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, July/August 2002.