Bryant Gumbel's illness not lung cancer

Bryant Gumbel attending the premiere of 'The Road' Bryant Gumbel attending the premiere of 'The Road' in New York. Gumbel says he's recovering from cancer surgery. Photo Credit: AP

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Former "Today" and "Early Show" co-anchor Bryant Gumbel is recovering from cancer, although not lung cancer, as initial media reports suggested Tuesday.

A friend of Gumbel's told The Associated Press Tuesday that a tumor had been removed near his lung, and a source confirmed to Newsday that Gumbel's illness was not lung cancer - the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. (Gumbel, 61, say friends, is not a smoker.)

Gumbel's surprising news broke on "Live with Regis & Kelly," where he has been a substitute host this week for Regis Philbin, who's recuperating from recent hip surgery.

Backstage, Gumbel told Kelly Ripa he couldn't dance with her to introduce a segment, giving her - and later a national audience - the reason.

Gumbel and his wife, Hilary Quinlan, had wanted to keep his illness private, but a source Tuesday said he expected it would get out eventually.

"It's nothing to hide from," he told Ripa and a studio audience of his illness and recent surgery. "They opened up my chest, they took out a malignant tumor, they took out part of my lung."

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"Lung" was the operative word, and a chilling one, which news reports jumped on. But a Gumbel pal, Sean Cassidy, president of New York-based public relations company DKC, said that the tumor was "not" in his lung. A call to Cassidy was not returned but a source said Gumbel feels "great" about his prognosis. "We hope, we hope it's over," Gumbel said.

Gumbel, meanwhile, hasn't been sidelined from his main gig these days, as host of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel." An HBO spokesman, Ray Stallone, said the next program is Dec. 22, and Gumbel will be on it.

Gumbel - who left "Today" in 1997 after 15 years, then moved to CBS for five more - said he will meet with his surgeon next week, and hopes to play golf after that. As veteran Gumbel watchers well know, he and the links are inseparable.

Stallone said Gumbel had decided not to comment further on his illness.

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