Cancer survivor ignites hope

Evan Handler, who played Harry on Sex and the City, opened up about his battle with cancer in the BLC Theater last Friday.By Heather Flore

While many of you know him as Harry Goldenblatt from HBO’s hit series Sex and the City, actor Evan Handler is more than just a refined Jewish lawyer residing in the heart of New York City.

Last Friday, Handler came to Rider to promote his newest book, It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and Bad News of Being Alive, and gave a speech on the most complicated and frightful journey he has had to endure during his 47 years of living.

In 1985, at the age of 24, Handler learned he had acute myeloid leukemia. Shortly after being diagnosed, he was told that what he had was an incurable disease and, as a result, he would not be alive much longer. Although all hope seemed to be lost, Handler never once gave up.

“False hope is a term I reject completely; it’s a useless and fictional comment,” he said. “Hope is the one thing in this world that can never, ever be false.”

Although he described himself to be “anything but an optimist,” Handler’s confidence and determination to get better and defy standards ultimately aided in his recovery from this so-called incurable disease, he said.

During his sickness, Handler continued to hold his head high, despite the countless doctors who failed to have confidence in his survival.

“It seemed like they felt it was better to be right than successful,” Handler said.

Only 10 percent of people with his disease are cured, and as he continued to get better, the doctors seemed to become increasingly puzzled. However, in 1988, Handler became dangerously ill. At this point, the cancer had advanced, spurring his decision to have a bone marrow transplant.

He spoke about his journey to the hospital, where all he saw and felt was despair and misery, not only in the atmosphere, but in the patients’ faces and demeanors as well.

“A mad house, I thought: ‘I’ve come to die at a madhouse,’” Handler said.

The nurses suggested that he might want to look to faith.

Handler had never particularly paid close attention to the subject, but the more he thought about it, the more he began to believe.

He called faith a “pretty handy item,” as it was one of the only things that helped him through this difficult time in his life.

Despite the gloomy and seemingly uninviting mood the hospital portrayed, faith was on his side and his transplant was successful. Although the recovery was painful and unusually long (a full year to completely recover), Handler had survived. Not only was it unbelievable that he was still alive, but he had also defied most of the expectations of the doctors whom he had seen and consulted about his disease.

Between the ages of 28 and 29, Handler was restored to full health and has since been leukemia-free.

He believes his wife, Elisa, helped him through it. “She changed my perspective on faith and life and erased all of the worrying I had in life,” he said.

After about a year of dating, Elisa discovered she was pregnant. This was seemingly impossible: doctors had told Handler that because of his disease and extensive medical treatment, his sperm count had been almost non-existent, and the chance of him impregnating someone was one in a million.

Unfortunately, soon after, Elisa lost the baby. However, a few years later, she became pregnant again with what is now a beautiful 1½-year-old girl, Sophia.

Handler’s experiences have played a major part in making him the person he is today. When asked if there are any
other children in his future, he laughed.

“My wife has cravings at times [to have more children], but I don’t,” he said.

Handler has his hands full with his miracle baby, which puts an interesting and exciting end, for now, to those tumultuous, roller coaster-ride years of his life.

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