publication date: Feb. 5, 2021

Storytelling is a part of J Freireich’s legacy

By Paul Goldberg

J enjoyed explaining that the letter J in his name appeared in his birth certificate.

He had no idea why his mother, an immigrant seamstress at a Chicago sweatshop, put it there, but it was certainly not an abbreviation for an actual name, Jacob, for example.

J’s J was its own thing. No period was to be used.

Great stories beautifully told are a part of J’s legacy. He spoke with reporters and historians, leaving behind more primary source material than your average Joe.

Emil J Freireich died Feb. 1, aged 93, at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Here are J’s stories in his own words:

  • Freireich’s conversation with Daniel Hayes, a breast cancer expert at the University of Michigan and former president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, is particularly entertaining.

  • There is also a beautifully annotated, three-session, seven-hour oral history done by MD Anderson.

  • NIH historians, too, sat down with Freireich. The interview appears here.

  • Another fine resource is a book by John Laszlo, “The Cure of Childhood Leukemia: Into the Age of Miracles.” Laszlo, both a participant and a historian of these events, records a lengthy conversation with Freireich and makes it a part of the narrative.

In this issue, we supplement J’s storytelling with an obituary by MD Anderson, and appreciations by Hagop Kantarjian, Moshe Talpaz, and Otis Brawley.

Copyright (c) 2021 The Cancer Letter Inc.