Clear Skies Ahead

Meteorologist Gary Lezak overcomes rare tissue sarcoma

In July 1999, Gary Lezak, chief meteorologist of KSHB 41 Action News, broke his wrist in an in-line skating accident. While at the hospital, Lezak asked doctors to check out a lump just above his left elbow he had noticed earlier in the year.

Howard Rosenthal, MD, a specialist in cancer of the bone and soft tissues, diagnosed the lump as an extraskeletal osteogenic sarcoma. This rare, aggressive cancer occurs in the soft tissue of extremities without attaching to bone. It’s diagnosed in about 60 adults in the U.S. annually. Dr. Rosenthal recommended surgery to remove the cancer, followed by extensive chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from spreading.

After two surgeries, Lezak was hospitalized for a week to receive five courses of chemotherapy. Until then, he had never spent the night in a hospital. Immediately following treatment, Lezak continued to work despite obvious weight loss and baldness from the chemotherapy. He refused to wear a toupee.

Because his cancer was so aggressive, Dr. Rosenthal tested Lezak every two months for the first two years after treatment. This ensured early detection if the cancer returned. Since then, Lezak has been tested yearly.

Going for wilder weather

Lezak was always fascinated by rain and thunderstorms. Born in Southern California, he was determined to go where weather was more extreme. In 1985, Lezak earned a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma.

After a stint as meteorologist on the morning show and midday news of a top station in Oklahoma, Lezak moved to Kansas City in 1992. He became chief meteorologist at Channel 41 in 1999.

A dyed-in-the-wool animal lover, Lezak has always shared the limelight with his dogs. First was long-time viewer favorite Windy, who lived almost 17 years; then Breezy passed away in December 2016. Now, Sunny – adopted from Wayside Waifs – help Lezak sniff out severe and threatening weather.  

Best forecast ever

Lezak has been cancer-free since 2000. He is grateful to be able to share his cancer experience and his passion for weather at more than 70 public appearances each year.

In November 2014, he received the best forecast ever. After reviewing Lezak’s X-rays and CT scan, Dr. Rosenthal said, “Everything looks great!” There was no evidence of cancer. Dr. Rosenthal said the type of cancer Lezak had “is black or white; you either have it or you don’t. And Gary doesn’t.” He is cured.

Lezak praised Dr. Rosenthal – “an incredible man” – and staff at The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s Sarcoma Center for his care.

Later that day, Lezak tweeted, “Found out today I was CURED of cancer from Dr. Rosenthal. 15 Years Cancer Free. Now, will it snow?”

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.