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NBC’s Tom Brokaw penned a new memoir on his journey through blood cancer, but he insists: “This isn’t poor Tommy has cancer.”

“There are lots of dimensions to being a cancer patient,” Brokaw, author of “A Lucky Life Interrupted” said in a PRESS Pass interview with Chuck Todd. “The overwhelming one is that it takes over your life.”

Brokaw is known for his privacy – but he decided to tell his story because he wants others to know about how to navigate America’s complex health care system. He says his financial situation, connections and family support might have given him a leg up.

“I was on the board of the Mayo Clinic. I was diagnosed there and I could pick up the phone and get a hold of whoever I wanted to,” said Brokaw, 75.” What I learned is that you really have to get proactive and manage your case.”

Despite a tough journey with multiple myeloma, which is treatable but not curable, Brokaw insists he’s an eternal optimist.

“You remember that great old Ronald Reagan line about a child comes down in the morning and beneath the Christmas tree, there’s just this enormous pile of horse dung. And he starts thinking, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere.’ That’s kind of my attitude about life.”

A Dateline special on Brokaw’s experience with cancer airs Thursday on NBC.

--Justin Peligri