Advanced cancer diagnosis inspires next step for veteran Atlanta radio host
When Si-Man’s cousin Gary “DJ Mix Master Mitch” Mitchell, found out he too had stage 4 pancreatic cancer earlier this year, the two Atlanta radio hosts decided to launch a podcast, Cousins with Cancer, to raise awareness. [Editor’s note: Mitchell died on December 8, after this story went to press.]Atlantans is a first-person account of the familiar strangers who bring the city to life. This month is a veteran radio host Silas “Si-Man” Alexander, as Kamille Whittaker said.
It was a total surprise when I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last July. I was losing weight and didn’t know why. I had gallbladder surgery and complications during the operation revealed a growth on my liver. The growth has been tested and found to be cancerous; it comes from the pancreas. I guess the complication was a blessing since I found out what was going on with my body. Without this complication, I might still not know why I was feeling the way I was feeling.
Now when I open my eyes everyday I’m grateful that I can open them, that’s the first thing. I am grateful to have another opportunity to make a difference at this point in my life. When I wake up it’s about trying to get through the day with as little pain as possible and trying to find some energy somewhere to get things done.
My top priority right now is capturing memories so that my grandchildren can at least know what their grandfather looked like, what he was thinking about certain times in his life, and what their father, my son, was like in his life. growing. So, my favorite project has set up a library of videos and images so that they can have access to all the images and recordings in digital form.
My family would tell you that I’m the one who always showed up with a camera. Everyone would be mad at me for putting the camera in their face, but then they would be the first to want to see each other afterwards. I was the kid who walked around with a tape recorder, trying to record everything and everyone and trying to sound like the people on the radio and on the TV. One of my favorite Christmas gifts from my parents was a very simple black cassette tape recorder. It could record, play, fast forward and rewind. That was it. But there was a little microphone on it and, oh, did I have fun with that. This is where my interest in being at the microphone started.
When I got to high school, a guy I knew introduced me to WXPQ 1528 AM, a little country radio station in our hometown of Eatonton. My job was basically to broadcast syndicated radio shows. I finally got the chance to pick up the mic and talk a little bit and got a chance to do a show, over time. I am very grateful to my friend for using his influence as a high school student like me to help me get started.
From there, I had appearances on the radio in Milledgeville, Macon and Athens; and, in 1988, I landed in Atlanta. I worked at WIGO 1340 AM for a little while; worked at KISS 104 for a little while; worked on V-103 for a while; returned to KISS 104; then Radio One Atlanta.
So, I’ve been in the Atlanta market for over three decades. It is a major blessing in our industry. Most people have to leave town.
I never imagined I could cover events like the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta in 88. Jesse Jackson was running for President and the whole atmosphere in the city was very energetic.
When the 1996 Olympics bombing occurred, I was working at 11Alive as an editor. I was one of the first people to edit the video on this that came out for the morning news. And then I spoke about it on the radio that night. At one point, I had four different jobs at the same time. So getting to the point where I can’t be that busy is a huge life change.
I would like to become stronger again so that I can continue to engage with the community. I miss interacting with school children on career days, or being necessary to run a program or run a town hall. This is how I stayed in touch with my community. I want to come back to this at some point.
But the family comes first. I miss them already, thinking of what my future might hold for me. So, I use all of my broadcasting skills and know-how to preserve my family’s memories, because nothing is more important to me than that. It was a motivation for me to keep busy and stay in the game. I’m going to take the hand that was dealt to me and play it.
This article appears in our December 2021 issue.