Storytelling is a part of J Freireich’s legacy

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

Emil J Freireich in 2016.
Photo courtesy of MD Anderson Cancer Center

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.

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