Radio Host Les Shapiro on Cancer Misdiagnosis and Why He's Still Alive

Les Shapiro has been engaged in the fight of his life.
Les Shapiro has been engaged in the fight of his life. Courtesy of Les Shapiro
Learning that he had cancer "validated a philosophy I've had for a long, long time," says Les Shapiro, a major Denver media figure for decades thanks to his fifteen years as a CBS4 anchor, a run at ESPN Radio Denver and his current gigs at Mile High Sports Radio and Fox31. "Life is fucking random."

That Shapiro, 62, is alive at all is further evidence of this theory. His regular doctor missed clues of the spreading disease not once, but twice, and the growths invading his system might not have been discovered until it was too late if Dr. David Opperman of the Colorado Voice Clinic hadn't ordered additional tests when Shapiro complained about problems with his voice.

And then there's the diagnosis itself. Shapiro has lung cancer despite the fact that "I've never smoked, I don't drink, and I work out six days a week. If you had asked me to name the top 1,000 possible ways I would die, lung cancer would not have been on that list. I happen to have a type of lung cancer that 98 percent of people with it are non-smokers."

His bill of health is not yet clean. "I went for a full body scan about a month ago and found I had about 65 percent shrinkage in all my cancerous lymph nodes," he reveals. "That was great to hear, because it means I'm in remission. But I've got 35 percent left in my body."

click to enlarge Les Shapiro during his early days on Denver TV. - COURTESY OF LES SHAPIRO
Les Shapiro during his early days on Denver TV.
Courtesy of Les Shapiro
Still, that's a huge improvement, especially given the tragic turns his story could easily have taken.

According to Shapiro, the first signs of trouble cropped up "about a year ago. I was feeling numbness in my jawline and my right ear lobe. At first I didn't think much of it, but I went to get it checked out, and my doctor thought it was a nerve problem that might or might not go away. And I was fine with that."

Not long thereafter, however, "I started fainting," he goes on. "I fainted on a mountain in Arizona, I fainted at King Soopers, I fainted at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. So I went back to my doctor, and once again, I was misdiagnosed. He told me it might be a combination of acid reflux and a nerve that runs up from my stomach."

These symptoms were followed by an issue that hit his career dead center. "I started losing my voice. It was getting really raspy, and that concerned me even more, because talking is my business."

click to enlarge Les Shapiro interviewing Denver Broncos legend Steve Atwater at Super Bowl XXXII. - COURTESY OF LES SHAPIRO
Les Shapiro interviewing Denver Broncos legend Steve Atwater at Super Bowl XXXII.
Courtesy of Les Shapiro
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts