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Roberts: Snow a 'larger-than-life kind of guy'

By John Roberts
CNN Senior National Correspondent
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Last Friday afternoon, I swapped e-mails with Tony Snow. He had just revealed that he'd be having surgery to remove a mass from his lower abdomen.

I only met Tony a year ago -- though we both knew "of" each other. The broadcasting business tends to "bind" people together.

You can meet someone for the first time, yet feel like you have known them for years. We're also about the same age and share a love for guitars, so we have common points of interest to chat about.

I told him my prayers were with him and that I hoped it was a "big nothing." He wrote back that he, too, hoped it was a big nothing and felt pretty confident it would be.

So the news he released today really knocks the wind out of you. Metastatic cancer is never good, and once it's in the liver, the survival rate tends to plummet. (Full story)

If there's any good news in this, it's that doctors discovered the cancer while they were inside excising the mass.

It was found long before Tony had any symptoms. Typically, by the time a patient shows symptoms, such as pain in the upper right abdomen or jaundice, the cancer will have spread throughout the liver, and in most cases, it's only a matter of time.

Tony battled cancer not long ago -- colon cancer -- to which he lost most of his colon in 2005. He insists that he's going to fight it again and win. It will be difficult -- chemotherapy, possible surgery, potential radiation treatment -- but he approaches the challenge with a pretty amazing attitude. And with good reason: A loving wife and three children are counting on him to beat it.

I lost a brother to cancer 26 years ago. Eight months from diagnosis to death. I remember well the day he called to say he had the disease. "The big C," he called it. Anyone who has ever received that diagnosis or that phone call knows how devastating it is.

Tony thought his battle was over. Life had other plans. But Tony's a larger-than-life kind of guy.

White House spokesman Tony Snow had a small, malignant growth removed from his pelvic area Monday.


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