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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Remembering Dana Reeve
Aired March 7, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. Glad to have you all with us, as we remember the remarkable life of a woman whose struggles are now over, but whose greatest victory may be yet to come.
DANA REEVE, WIDOW OF CHRISTOPHER REEVE: This is really no way of knowing where your life's journey will take you.
ZAHN: Tonight, the journey of Dana Reeve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 2003)
CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: Talking about in sickness and in health, we weren't thinking about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
D. REEVE: After Chris' accident, there was a sense of loss, but we were able to share it.
ZAHN: A life dedicated to turning personal loss into a medical victory.
D. REEVE: It would be a great victory if we could continue working on stem cell research in a -- in a positive way.
ZAHN: A life of courage and constant challenge.
D. REEVE: Just when you think you're coming out, you know, and you think, OK, it's all right, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, then I got this diagnosis in the summer.
ZAHN: A life cut short much too soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dana Reeve was an extraordinary person, a passionate advocate, a wonderful mother, a loyal, committed, loving wife.
ZAHN: Tonight, the journey of Dana Reeve.
ZAHN: We are doing something very special tonight and devoting much of this hour to a very special woman.
Dana Reeve died last night at the age of 44. I had the privilege of covering her for many years, and she taught us all an awful lot about courage and, ultimately, how to live. She genuinely cared about everybody around her. And because of what happened to her husband, the late actor Christopher Reeve, she became a tireless advocate for paralyzed people everywhere.
She was passionate about a lot of issues, health, social and political. And, tonight, we will examine some of those.
We all knew that Dana Reeve had lung cancer, but what we didn't know is how soon the end would come. She looked remarkable and sounded surprisingly strong during her last public appearance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our friend, now and forever, Dana Reeve.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZAHN (voice-over): The last time we saw her, Dana Reeve was singing.
D. REEVE (singing): Some people never get to do all we have got to do.
ZAHN: It was last January at a gala honoring hockey great Mark Messier.
She was also singing at a club when Christopher Reeve first saw her. Dana Morosini was the daughter of a New York cardiologist, an honor student in college, who studied acting in California, and was working her way up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SUPERMAN")
C. REEVE: You OK?
MARGOT KIDDER, ACTRESS: Uh-huh.
C. REEVE: Well, good night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Christopher was already famous for playing Superman in the movies. He said, that first night, in 1987, was -- quote -- "intense attraction at first sight," which quickly developed into love.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 2003)
D. REEVE: We were together five years before we got married. So, it was really -- by the time we got married, we were ready for whatever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: But neither of them could have been ready for what happened on May 27, 1995. A riding accident changed both of their lives forever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christopher Reeve remains in serious, but stable condition. Mr. Reeve currently has no movement or spontaneous respiration. He may require surgery to stabilize the upper spine.
ZAHN: He was paralyzed from the neck down. Many years later, Dana Reeve described those horrible first few days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 2003)
D. REEVE: Really, my main interest when he was in the ICU, and he was unconscious, and the various members of the family were saying, he will want this, he will want that, we should do this, we should do that, the only thing I ever said is, let's wait until he wakes up and let him decide. And that was the most important thing to me and to get alone with him and to see where his heart really was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Christopher Reeve decided to live. It wasn't easy. There were times when he wasn't sure it was the right decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 2003)
ZAHN: In the beginning stages of -- of your diagnosis, how close did you come to committing suicide?
C. REEVE: Well, I couldn't have I done it anyway, but...
ZAHN: Or wanting to commit suicide?
C. REEVE: About a day.
When I turned to Dana and said, I'm probably not worth having, you know, we should probably let me go, and we -- we agreed to wait a couple of years. And then, if I still felt the same way, we could reevaluate it.
ZAHN: And what did Dana say to you?
C. REEVE: She said: "It's your choice. It's your life. But you're still you. And I love you."
And I remember saying, I have really tested the marriage vows here. Talking about in sickness and in health, we weren't thinking about this.
ZAHN: Would you be alive today if it weren't for Dana's love?
C. REEVE: No. And, if I were single, I wouldn't be, you know, if -- if I didn't have that kind of a life, you know, the life, you know, with Dana and with the family. It was all the difference in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: They would have a little more than nine years left together, years that were productive for Dana Reeve.
Of course, she cared for her husband, helped raise her son. She also went back to acting and, along with her husband, became an activist.
C. REEVE: My wife, Dana Reeve.
ZAHN: Together, they pushed scientists and politicians to do more for the disabled. They created the Christopher Reeve Foundation...
D. REEVE: They're asking for $25,000.
ZAHN: ... in 1995.
I watched them in action. I saw their passion. I saw their commitment. They raised millions of dollars to improve the quality of life for paralysis victims. They both were fiercely dedicated to finding a cure for paralysis. But Christopher Reeve never realized his dream of a cure. He died on October 10, 2004.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. REEVE: I made a vow to Chris when we married that I would love him, and I would be with him in sickness and in health. And I did OK with that. But there's another vow that I need to amend today. I promised to love, honor, and cherish him until death did us part. Well, I can't do that, because I will love, honor and cherish him forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Last summer, less than a year after speaking those words, Dana Reeve made a stunning announcement. Unbelievably, even though she had never been a smoker, Dana Reeve had lung cancer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 2005)
D. REEVE: Boy, what a year it has been. It has been a very difficult year for our family. Chris passed away last October. Shortly thereafter, my mother passed away, after surgery from ovarian cancer, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. And she was a big, big, strong support of our family, and very close to my son. And, so, that was hard. And then I got this diagnosis.
Just when you think you're coming out, you know, and you think, OK, it's all right, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, then I got this diagnosis in the summer. And it has been -- you start to wonder. It's a -- it's a rocky road.
And -- but I do feel that, with the support that I have received, and just our family unit is so tight, and -- that we're going to get through this, like we got through everything else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: It has been only four months since she said that, two months since we last saw her singing.
Something Christopher Reeve told me less than a year before he died comes to mind today. It applies to both of them. It applies to all of us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 2003)
C. REEVE: Life is pretty random, pretty chaotic. And anybody's life can change in an instant. So, you don't need to punish yourself by singling yourself out. None of us are exempt.
It's a question of what -- what we do afterwards, how we find the meaning. And once you can see that as an opportunity, rather than a complete disaster, then you can really get things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
D. REEVE (singing): I will always be with you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZAHN: Terribly sad.
With me now is Joe Canose, who is with the Christopher Reeve Foundation and knew Dana Reeve on both a personal and professional level -- also with us tonight, our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
So, Joe, what it is that you will miss the most about Dana?
JOE CANOSE, CHRISTOPHER REEVE FOUNDATION QUALITY OF LIFE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I will -- I will miss her laugh. I will -- I will miss the joy that she brought to all of us whenever she visited in the foundation. She was just infectious with her good spirit. And I'm really going to miss that a lot.
ZAHN: I know she made a point of shaking everybody's hands at the foundation when she came into the room. And she's had a tremendous amount of impact on paralysis victims and their families.
CANOSE: Oh, yes.
ZAHN: What difference do you think she has ultimately made in this fight against paralysis?
CANOSE: Well, I -- I think that she carried on Chris' work by leaving the foundation after he died to continue to search for a cure for paralysis.
But she really was what we call our quality-of-life person. She -- she made an extra special effort to reach out to people living with paralysis in the here and now and to help them with her grants program and with the resource center that we built that helps answer questions for people. Not only help, but she would go through hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents, right...
ZAHN: ... to decide who would be the...
ZAHN: ... which would be the best program to have the grant awarded to.
CANOSE: I -- I don't think a lot of people realized that Dana actually read the applications for those grants. And she participated in all the meetings to help to decide who to award a grant to.
ZAHN: Did you ever see her feel sorry for herself...
CANOSE: Not once.
ZAHN: ... either after Chris' accident or after her diagnosis?
CANOSE: Never, never. She didn't want that, even after her diagnosis, that sympathy was not something that Dana knew how to receive or wanted. It was always, go forward. And that's the way that she lived her life.
ZAHN: I guess, Sanjay, the thing that is so heartbreaking about the stories is the speed at which this disease -- disease progressed.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
ZAHN: After all, we just saw her singing just two months ago. She wasn't short of breath. She wasn't coughing.
ZAHN: How -- how aggressive of a form cancer must this have been?
GUPTA: Well, it -- it probably was in a very aggressive form. And -- and most of them are. That's one of the difficult things about lung cancer.
We -- by the time someone goes to the doctor, as it sounds like she did, with some sort of cough, that's already a fairly advanced stage of lung cancer -- advanced sign of lung cancer, which is pretty remarkable.
ZAHN: But look at her, just to come at the beginning of the year, Sanjay.
GUPTA: I -- I know. And -- and she was able to sing. And, so, she had good, you know, lung capacity and all that. But it can progress very fast. And that's the thing. When you talk about the statistics, Paula, they are dire. Sixty percent of people die within a year of lung cancer. Eighty-five percent of people die within five years. And the most remarkable thing is, we have not really made a dent in some of those numbers in many, many years.
So, as good as she looked, even some remission she talked about in November, with the tumor shrinking a bit, she came out and talked about that. While that happens in a lot of people with the -- with the early stages of therapy, oftentimes, it comes back even more robustly, even more vigorously than before, which is unfortunate.
ZAHN: As you know, Joe, she told many friends as recently as five, six weeks ago that there was a turn, a turn for the better, and, then, I guess, just two weeks ago, the downturn.
Well, we appreciate, Joe, you're sharing Dana's legacy with us.
And, Sanjay, we would love to have you come back.
Another staggering statistic is the fact that, when you look at the number of women who have lung cancer overall, 20 percent of them have never even smoked. And we're going to address that on the other side of this break.
And that is probably one of the most questions -- important questions we're going to deal with tonight, how you ever get lung cancer if you have never smoked. We are going to get some really important answers coming up next.
And, since we all know smoking causes cancer, why is a whole new generation of Hollywood stars lighting up?
And do you know what stem cell research is? Well, it threw both Dana and Christopher Reeve into politics. What's happening with that now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 2005)
D. REEVE: I think I learned a long time ago that life just isn't fair, so you better stop expecting it to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE INSIDER," JANUARY 18, 2006)
D. REEVE: What I didn't know is that lung cancer is the number- one cancer. I -- of course, we're always looking for, you know, breast and ovarian and uterine. And, you know -- you know, I'm thinking, I'm a non-smoker, and I live in the country, so I think I'm good. And, so, I was completely shocked.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: Dana Reeve, widow of actor Christopher Reeve, talking about her diagnosis with lung cancer. It was just last August when she got the horrible news. And the disease took her very fast. If you haven't heard, she lost her battle with cancer last night, at the age of 44.
Now, lung cancer kills more people in the country, as Dana just mentioned, than any other kind of cancer. And while the vast majority of lung cancer victims smoke, about 20 percent of them are non- smokers. And, as you just heard Dana say, again, she fell into that category, an often forgotten one when we and doctors think of lung cancer.
Here's medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three winters ago, Sandy Britt had a feeling that something was terribly wrong.
SANDY BRITT, CANCER PATIENT: I had noticed over the winter that I was getting one cold after the other.
COHEN: Sandy, who is 43, told her doctor she was worried about lung cancer. Her father and brother had died of the disease. She says the doctor told her not to worry.
BRITT: I could have been saved. I was -- you know, at that point, it was completely curable. And now it's not. Now I have a terminal diagnosis.
COHEN: Three years later, her suspicions turned out to be true. She was diagnosed with lung cancer so advanced, it had already spread to other parts of her body. Doctors told her she had eight months to live.
BRITT: I really believe that the reason I was ignored was that I was a young, healthy-looking woman who never smoked.
COHEN: Sandy Britt, Dana Reeve, part of a group you don't hear much about -- studies show that as many as 17 percent of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients are life-long non-smokers. Eighty percent of those patients are women.
That's approximately 11,000 women diagnosed each year. And the overall survival rates of lung cancer are grim. Six out of 10 people will die within a year of being diagnosed. Eight out of 10 people will die within two years.
BRITT: There's a whole subculture of us that people don't know about. And I can get lung cancer. If Dana Reeve can get lung cancer, then nobody is safe. Anyone can get lung cancer.
COHEN: Sandy says it's bad enough that she has a fatal disease, but people who don't know her well often assume she brought it on herself. But she has never smoked, not ever. BRITT: People don't care, because they say, well, you know, you smoked. You -- you brought it on yourself. It absolutely infuriates me to have lung cancer, to have a smoker's disease, when I actually hate smoking.
You know, I -- I belong to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. I do everything possible my whole life to avoid it.
COHEN: Sandy is fighting for more money for lung cancer research.
BRITT: Twice as many women die of lung cancer than breast cancer, but breast cancer is something that everybody knows women get. So, I think it's -- it's just more -- it's more logical. It's more easy to accept.
COHEN: Her statistics are on target. But, today, thanks to an experimental therapy, Sandy has lived three months longer than her doctors expected. But she's also writing her will.
BRITT: One to five years. If I'm lucky, I'll live five years. I mean, it could be any time.
COHEN: While she's still alive:
BRITT: You know, my mantra is: I am a miracle. I'm going to go the distance.
And I -- you know, I do hope and pray that I will be one of the few that actually survives this disease. I mean, I am a realist, and I have to plan for, you know, the fact that there's a good chance I'm going to die.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
ZAHN: The speed of lung cancer is truly frightening.
Dana Reeve was diagnosed just last August. And the sad truth is -- and I think Sanjay mentioned this a little bit earlier on -- that 67 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer die within a year. So, you can see how important it is to catch the cancer early.
Once again, here is medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
GUPTA (voice-over): In the world of lung cancer, early detection can mean living for years, vs. surviving for months.
Micki McCabe is living proof. For her, it started as a nagging cough. Doctors prescribed antibiotics for what they thought was pneumonia. No improvement. She was X-rayed. But doctors needed to see more. MICKI MCCABE, LUNG CANCER SURVIVOR: I had the CAT scan, which did seem to indicate that there were some tumors. I remember asking him then, did it seem very likely that I had lung cancer? He answered me very forthrightly that, more than likely, I did have lung cancer.
GUPTA: But you see, Micki's case is rare. When it comes to lung cancer, most patients don't have the luxury of early detection. Doctors might recommend a CAT for a smoker over age 50, but that's where the rules end.
DR. ROBERT KORST, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF CARDIOTHORACIC SURGERY, NEW YORK-PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL/WEILL CORNELL MEDICAL CENTER: It is really hard to make any recommendations about screening in a patient who is not a smoker.
GUPTA: To be even clearer, doctors have no set guidelines for lung cancer screening. Unlike mammograms for breast cancer, colonoscopies for colon cancer, and PSA tests for prostate cancer, in lung cancer, we're not even sure who to screen. Now C.T. scans have been proven to defect lung cancer better and earlier than X-rays or other diagnostic tests.
So, now a 50,000-patient study is trying to determine if CAT scans are the way to go. Results from that study are expected in the next few years. But, for now, they're expensive and not covered by insurance.
DR. SANJAY SAINI, PROFESSOR AND CHAIRMAN OF RADIOLOGY, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Whether or not C.T. -- lung cancer screening with C.T. does, in fact, save lives, we don't know the answer to that yet.
Unfortunately, as you look inside the human body, there are things that we find that can be potentially bad, but we also find things that are of no consequence.
GUPTA: They're called false positives, irregular results that can lead people to unnecessary procedures, many of them invasive. And they're estimated to occur somewhere between 25 percent to 70 percent of the time.
SAINI: The patient ends up having other tests done, potentially even surgery done, to determine what that is. And that's a downside risk to the patient.
GUPTA: Dr. Len Horovitz says that may be true, but it's still worth the risk.
DR. LEN HOROVITZ, PULMONARY SPECIALIST, LENOX HILL HOSPITAL: If there's a 25 percent false negative rate, that means that there's a 75 percent positive rate.
GUPTA: And he points out another possible virtue of a false positive, simply having any kind of abnormality, even if it turns out to be nothing bad, can still scare people enough to make them stop smoking. Micki McCabe didn't wait for any recommendations. She's convinced that she's alive today because of that one scan years ago.
MCCABE: The early detection probably is why I'm talking to you now.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: So, Doctor, if you don't get the cancer from smoking, how else are you going to pick up lung cancer?
GUPTA: A couple of different ways.
Secondhand smoke can still be a -- a big cause. Radon gas, Paula, this is something that is actually a byproduct of uranium. It's in the soil. It's in a lot of old homes' basements. Actually, that's the second leading cause of lung cancer in this country.
It could also just be bad luck of the draw, bad genes, you know? And -- and women seem to have -- because they have estrogen, that seems to fuel the cancer, sometimes even more so than in men, which is why you're seeing a higher incident. But, you know, the number one cause is -- is smoking still, you know? And we can't belittle that point at all.
And I think the fact that this is considered a smoker's cancer, there's -- there's less funding attached to it, less attention attached to it as well, because people think this is a reversible cause of cancer.
ZAHN: There's a huge disparity, right...
GUPTA: There is a disparity.
ZAHN: ... in the funds that those of us who have been fighting breast cancer have raised.
GUPTA: That's right.
ZAHN: So, give us, just quickly, the statistic.
GUPTA: Between '96 and 2002, there was over $1 billion raised for breast cancer, in that same time period, about $33 million for lung cancer, so a huge disparity, and despite the fact lung cancer is a bigger killer.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you...
GUPTA: Thank you.
ZAHN: ... so much. Now, while it is unusual for non-smokers to get lung cancer, we all know smokers who wouldn't quit and died. So, why are we seeing some of Hollywood's newest stars lighting up? Don't they know what happened to some of those biggest stars we have lost?
Let's quickly get to the Headline News update for this hour from Erica Hill -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Paula, tonight, the president's own party seemingly daring him to save the Dubai ports deal. House Republican leaders backed a plan that would bar any company run by another government from operating U.S. ports -- and not only that. The ban is attached to money for the Iraq war and for hurricane relief. The White House says the president's veto threat still stands.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is blaming Iran for sending troublemakers across the border into Iraq. Rumsfeld says Iran is smuggling explosives and trying to disrupt politics in Iraq.
A new book claims San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds used steroids for at least five seasons. The book, which is called "Game of Shadows," says the Giants outfielder took steroids via injections -- injections, pills, creams, and liquid beginning in 1998. Now, so far, there's no comment from Bonds -- he says he won't read the book -- or from the Giants.
And some sad news to end on for you tonight: Gordon Parks has died. He captured the struggle and success of black Americans for decades in his photographs, writing and films, including the '70s detective series "Shaft." Gordon Parks was 93.
Paula, that's a look at the headlines from Atlanta -- back over to you.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica.
Both Dana and Christopher Reeve became very active in politics. Why did they champion the controversial cause of stem cell research? What's happening with that battle now?
Also, in spite of all the warnings, why are some of Hollywood's brightest young stars also smokers?
ZAHN: Dana and Christopher Reeve spent many years passionately fighting to raise money to find a cure for paralysis. And now after Dana Reeve's death last night, their work continues at the foundation they both helped create. Allan Chernoff spent the day there and just filed this report.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christopher Reeve Foundation, how can I help you? ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the Christopher Reeve Foundation announced the tragic death of its chair Dana Reeve, staffers kept to their mission, to help people paralyzed by spinal cord injuries.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to give you some phone numbers for our advocacy groups.
CHERNOFF: The organization's motto? Go forward. Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana had an ambitious goal for their foundation, finding a cure for paralysis.
KATHY LEWIS, CEO, CHRISTOPHER REEVE FOUNDATION: They were thrown into a club they didn't really want to belong to and made the best of it. And Chris really embodied the spirit of being positive and upbeat and living a very purposeful life., as did Dana.
CHERNOFF: Christopher and Dana merged their foundation with the American Paralysis Association and began putting money into cutting- edge research to try to regenerate damaged nerves and cells, a goal that once seemed impossible, but no longer, says research director Susan Howley.
SUSAN HOWLEY, CHRISTOPHER REEVE FOUNDATION: There's enormous hope that we can really develop interventions that will promote recovery of function in people who are injured.
CHERNOFF: Beyond spending $8 million a year on research, the foundation also funds quality of life programs for the disabled. It paid for this wheelchair-accessible playground at a public school in Manhattan. And for patients at the Aurora Medical Center, in Wisconsin to travel to the movies and go fishing last year. Dana Reeve reviewed all the grant applications.
LEWIS: She personally went through every single one of them. It was very important to her to do everything she could to make a difference in people's lives living with paralysis.
CHERNOFF (on camera): The paralysis resource center at the foundation's headquarters is filled with books, magazines, and videos that you can't find in your local library, such as "Wheelchairs on the Go: Accessible Fun in Florida." And all these are available for loan through the mail.
(voice-over): Dana was last at the foundation in December for a board meeting. Now this foundation is Dana and Christopher's legacy, proof of lives that were well spent. Allan Chernoff, CNN, Short Hills, New Jersey.
ZAHN: Of course, Washington was one of the biggest battle fronts for Dana Reeve's quest to find a cure for paralysis. She fought tenaciously on Capitol Hill for federal money for research. And today people there are remembering her spirit, even though the Reeve Foundation suffered a huge setback in Washington just a few weeks ago. Here's senior international correspondent John Roberts.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I thank the Congress for doubling the funding of the National Institutes of Health.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): She was the image of grace and courage and a powerful force on Capitol Hill. For nine years, Dana Reeve was her husband's constant companion, his tireless support system as he twisted arms in Congress. Just two weeks after Christopher's death, she became the symbol of his strength and spirit, signing on to John Kerry's presidential campaign.
DANA REEVE, DECEASED: And I am here today because John Kerry, like Christopher Reeve, believes in keeping our hope alive.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I will never forget the grace and the strength that she showed that day, and even a glow that she exuded in her love for Chris and her passion about the issue.
ROBERTS: But her campaign went beyond partisan politics. She faced down reluctant lawmakers and built bridges across party lines.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Oh, she was overwhelming. She looked like a movie star. She spoke eloquently and was a very effective advocate.
ROBERTS: Spinal injury, paralysis and stem cell research were her causes. It was her story, her determination some members of Congress say, that helped lead House members to defy the threat of a presidential veto and pass a bill that would expand funding for embryonic stem cell research.
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: If it hadn't been for her, we would not have had the number of signatures on the stem cell bill that we had. I'm absolutely convinced of that.
ROBERTS: Her dual tragedy, losing her husband, only to be diagnosed with lung cancer, had a special resonance with lawmakers who face their own mortality. Arlen Specter recently battled cancer.
SPECTER: President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1970. Had we devoted the resources to that war, which we devote to other wars, perhaps Dana Reeve's life could have been saved, perhaps Arlen Specter wouldn't have gotten Hodgkin's. We need to utilize federal funding on stem cell research that could have cured Superman, could have cured Christopher Reeve from his spinal cord injury.
ROBERTS: But for all the political victories Dana and Christopher Reeve had, there were also setbacks. The Senate has yet to pass the stem cell bill. And just last month in a cost-saving measure, the White House eliminated all federal funding for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Senator Tom Harkin, a personal friend, told Dana's caregivers on Friday to pass along a promise. HARKIN: I'd love to talk to her again, but if I can't, just whisper one thing in her ear for me, tell her that we are going to put that money back. I guarantee it.
ROBERTS: And some lawmakers today also made another vow that in honor of Dana Reeve's memory, they will do whatever they can to get through the Senate that bill that expands federal financing, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Paula?
ZAHN: Thanks so much, John -- John Roberts reporting from Washington tonight.
Now both Christopher and Dana Reeve were very strong supporters of any medical research involving stem cells. It was and remains controversial. That is, actually getting stem cells can involve the destruction of fertilized human embryos. And so many people object to using stem cells for religious and ethical reasons. But the Reeves believed passionately that stem cells from unwanted embryos could be the building blocks the body needs to regrow damaged nerves and body parts. I spoke with Dana about stem cell research just last May.
REEVE: There's a number of things, heart disease has great potential with stem cell research. I mean, really there's not an ailment you can name where a specialist wouldn't say there's a possibility here.
ZAHN: But that's the key word, possibility. That there's this great potential. But the fact is there's no certainty that this embryonic cell research will deliver the kind of cures you're talking about.
REEVE: And I would say to that there was no certainty that mold in a petri dish was going to turn into a polio vaccine. But the fact is, you need unfettered scientific research. And we as a country have always been on the forefront of that, pushing the boundaries, pushing ahead in completely ethical ways. Strict guidelines is what we do, so you need to do explore the potential.
ZAHN: I can't help but think of your husband Chris.
ZAHN: And how he so passionately fought for this kind of research.
ZAHN: Particularly when he believed that it could yield great results for paralysis victims. But even he conceded to me, he wasn't sure the embryonic cell experimentation would help him at all.
REEVE: He did say -- certainly towards what turned out to be the end of his life, he wasn't sure it would help him personally. But he believed so strongly in it for the potential to cure a host of other ailments and diseases, that it's just a matter of doing the right thing.
There are people on both sides of the political fence here, Democrats as well as Republicans, who support stem cell research. And Chris certainly was fighting for other people. He wasn't only fighting for himself. And it would be a great victory if we could continue working on stem cell research in a positive way.
ZAHN: Dana Reeve always optimistic about her cause. Some of Hollywood's most famous stars smoked and died from lung cancer. So why is a whole new generation of celebrities lighting up? Why does it seem that smoking is glamorous or at least portrayed as glamorous once again?
ZAHN: Dana Reeves' death less than two years after her husband's is certainly tragic. And it seems baffling because lung cancer took her life even though she never even smoked. Eighty percent of lung cancer victims do smoke. And in spite of decades of warnings, nearly 50 million Americans still smoke. Some of them may be taking their cues from Hollywood, where a whole new generation of stars seem to be trying to make it look glamorous. Here's Brooke Anderson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So tell me, what's a beautiful young American ping-pong player doing mingling among the British upper class?
BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, at the moment she's smoking. Whether it is Scarlett Johannsen in "Match Point," Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in "Fight Club," Natalie Portman in "Closer," Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting" or the young stars of "Reality Bites" --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all we need, a couple smokes, a cup of coffee.
ANDERSON: Depictions of Hollywood's elite puffing away on the big screen are rivaled only by images of them smoking in real life.
A-listers like Jennifer Aniston, Irish bad boy Colin Farrell, screen siren Kate Hudson, British leading man Jude Law, Hollywood heart throb Ashton Kutcher, "Lord of the Rings" star Elijah Wood and even this weekend's Best Actor Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman have also been caught smoking off-screen as well.
But when the smoke clears, many experts are concerned all we're left with are devastating effects on our nation's youth. Dr. Jonathan Fielding is the director of public health for Los Angeles County.
DR. JONATHAN FIELDING, L.A. COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH: There have been some very good studies, particularly from researchers at Dartmouth, that showed that if your stars are smoking and you watch them in the movies you are much more likely to smoke.
ANDERSON: Some in Hollywood think it is time to take a stand. Silver screen veteran James Woods tells CNN he won't take any more roles that involve smoking on screen.
JAMES WOODS, ACTOR: As important as AIDS is, as important as alcoholism is, as important as highway accidents are as a consideration, smoking kills more than all those things combined including gunfire. Why don't we think about that?
ANDERSON: Others aren't so sure.
MATT DILLON, ACTOR: I can't take a moral stand on something when it comes down to the character. If the character would then I would.
RACHEL WEISZ, ACTRESS: I think that black and white movies have already glamorized smoking down in history's point where whatever we try and do now it's too late. Smoking is glamorous.
ANDERSON: Action superstar Vin Diesel seen smoking here in "Saving Private Ryan" and again in "Knockaround Guys" says it's complicated.
VIN DIESEL, ACTOR: At what point do you alter a scene that would call for smoking just to make a political statement? That's where the tricky thing comes into play. Because yes, I do think that our whole country smokes because of the movies.
SHARON STONE, ACTRESS, BASIC INSTINCT: What are you going to do, charge me with smoking?
ANDERSON: From Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct" to the black and white move of Hollywood's past, weather it's harmful to viewers or not, smoking will always be part of cinema's history, even though most would agree it's better left out of our children's future.
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: It's not that much fun, it's not that cool and it is really hard to quit. You will hate yourself later.
ANDERSON: Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.
ZAHN: According to Dr. Fielding, who you just heard from in Brooke's story, more than 70 percent of PG-13 movies feature smoking.
Dana Reeve was also a frequent guest on "LARRY KING LIVE." Larry will join me in a couple seconds with his thoughts on her life and a look ahead at what he's doing at the top of the hour.
Plus, do you happen to know who wrote the song that ended up being Dana Reeve's good-bye to all of us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REEVE: And with that, I would like to congratulate you and fix my mortarboard for the last time and wish you well. And I'd like to introduce you to the fine company I keep, my inspiration and certainly one of the best choices I have made in my life, my husband, Christopher Reeve.
ZAHN: Would you be alive today if it weren't...
CHRISTOPHER REEVE: No. And if I were single, I wouldn't be. You know, if I didn't have that kind of a life, the life with Dana, with the family. It made all the difference in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: We celebrate Dana Reeve's life tonight. Larry King also knew Dana. At the top of the hour, he'll look back at her life and her courageous fight against cancer.
Larry, you and I have had the privilege of meeting so many different people. Have you ever met a woman that was as brave and as generous as Dana Reeve was?
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: No, she was special. She epitomized courage and strength and class. You know, Ernest Hemingway defined class as grace under pressure. And boy, she had that. She had pressure every day of her life after Chris' accident. She showed enormous class. She handled his death very, very well. The memorial service was the best memorial service I've ever attended. Her dealings with his children and her child, Will. Everything about her. There was nobody like her. And it's still a shock. You can't believe that someone that vital, that young, who never smoked, is gone from lung cancer.
ZAHN: It's very difficult to accept, and I know you're going to be talking with folks in the cancer community tonight and friends of Dana's, who I'm sure will pretty much reinforce everything you're saying here tonight. Who else will you be talking to?
KING: Lance Armstrong is going to be with us. He's a very close friend of Dana and Chris, and of course a cancer survivor himself. Deborah Roberts of ABC News, who co-hosted a show with Dana. Dr. Maya Angelou, America's I guess poet laureate. Deepak Chopra, Marianne Wilson and Cathy Lewis, who is president of the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
And checking in with us will be a noted cancer surgeon, and Senator John Kerry will check in as well.
ZAHN: All right, Larry. We'll look for you at 9:00.
ZAHN: It's hard, I think, for all of us to accept that someone who looked so vital up until just a couple of months ago is no longer with us.
We are going to hear a little bit more about that last public appearance that Dana made in January to honor a retiring hockey legend, and we'll share that with you when we come back. Please stay with us. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Welcome back. Before we go, Erica Hill has the HEADLINE NEWS business break for you.
ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: Paula, a less than bullish outlook for tech stocks held the market in check today. The Dow gained just 22 points, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 17. The S&P 500 also down slightly.
Some more big changes coming for white-collar workers at General Motors. GM says it will begin the shift from a pension retirement plan to a 401(k) plan that costs less. It will also make employees responsible for investing their money. The world's largest car maker is hoping to save $1.6 billion this year. It currently has pension obligations of more than $10 billion.
And the former chief money man for Enron says the company juiced its balance sheet with deals that included Nigerian barges. Andrew Fastow was visibly shaken as he testified. He has already copped a plea. It earned him 10 years in prison and millions in fines and restitution.
And Paula, those are your business break headlines. Back over to you.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. Appreciate it.
Now, in my job, I have the privilege of meeting some really extraordinary people, and I'll never forget Dana Reeve. She was a woman of unusual courage, of grace, of dignity, with an amazing, generous heart. Her death simply doesn't seem fair.
But as she used to tell many of us that knew her, life isn't fair. But life can still be meaningful. The key is not to wallow in self-pity. You have to grow, go beyond yourself, do something for others.
That is Dana Reeve's enduring legacy.
We leave you tonight with her last public song. Carole King's "Now and Forever," sang in January at Madison Square Garden during a ceremony honoring, of course, someone other than herself, New York Rangers Hockey star Mark Messier.
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