Fox 9 meteorologist Ian Leonard is starting to look camera ready now that he’s completed chemotherapy on his face.
He’s due back at the weather map after Valentine’s Day, but, “I want to be back Monday, the 13th.” He’s been off air for more than a month for the next phase of treatment of a tumor that required the removal a third of his lower lip in July. “Eight surgeries in two days,” recalled Leonard.
The private joke between the TV guy and Christy, his wife of 17 years, has always been “any place but the face,” where illness is concerned. But that’s where his cancer first became evident in a pimple near his lip that was so painful to burst that Ian nearly fainted. Other cancers and precancerous lesions were found all over his face. He’s been sharing the facial transformation in a blog that’s been getting 10,000-plus hits daily.
He looked much better than I anticipated when I arrived Saturday to celebrate his taste buds coming back to life with my homemade ginger ale and bags of Naked Chicken Chalupas from Taco Bell. (Fox 9 anchor Randy Meier beat me to Ian’s junk food craving with huge boxes of Twinkies.)
“The other day Chris and I went out to a big box retailer, one of my first days out, and [my face] was pretty oozy. … We were in the wood section when a couple recognized me in a baseball hat. They were really nice, following the blog. They said, You look great! We talked for a few minutes and they left and Chris said, ‘You don’t look very good at all. You’re quite oozy.’ ”
Chris added: “I am very supportive, but I’m honest.”
She’ll be by Ian’s side for his first public appearances on behalf of his favorite charity: The Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Minnesota. He’ll be the “Pied Piper leading lemmings off a cliff” at the Minneapolis plunges March 3 and 4 and the Eden Prairie event March 11.
Q: Is the blog therapeutic?
A: Oh my God, it’s so therapeutic. I sit there every day around 5:45 and I do it on my phone. I go to my notes and I just type with my thumbs. It’s like a conscious stream of thought. I think about, “What was my day? What happened today?” I’ll write one sentence and from that sentence I get an idea and then it just kind of comes, a couple of paragraphs. Then I read it to Christy and the girls [Kaiti, 11, and Jordan, 14] and then, usually before I hit “post,” I cry for about five minutes. It’s been very therapeutic and I don’t know why. People who diary and journal, I know why they do it now.
Q: But you’re a good writer. You read a lot?
A: I read a lot. I’ve never been called pretty and I’ve never been called a good writer. [Smiles] The blog started doing like 10,000 plus a day.
Q: You’ve been called cute?
A: Oh, I’m really cute. [Laughs]
Q: Cute’s cuter than pretty?
A: I think so, too. Thirty-two days ago I started a blog. There’s no real leap-off point. I didn’t even know what I was going to do. This form of skin cancer is the only time a doctor has told me to look online. Doctors are always, Don’t look online. My dermatologist said, You need to see what this is going to do, so that nothing’s a surprise. I remember going online and [thinking], “This is nasty.” I kept looking around and there are lot of people who blogged their way through this. I thought maybe I could help people and not wear makeup and not have my hair done and just say, “Look what’s happened to my face.”
Q: How long before you can wear makeup again?
A: As soon as these last two [areas under his eyes heal]. The last two days have been amazing. I went from looking like I could have done a walk-on part on “The Walking Dead” to this! I’m like [fist pump] Yeaaaah.
Q: You’ve made friends on the blog?
A: Yeah. Now there are four people who have started this same treatment and we’re this little support group. I want to do a big, free cancer screening for the public. I want to do stories about them, if they’ll let me, for Fox 9. I don’t want the story to be about me. It should be about cancer and how to identify this. When you’re 50 years old, you didn’t lead a life filled with sunscreen when you were a child. It’s been … sobering.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.