As anchor of shows on Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel, and with responsibility for overseeing the business coverage on both, Neil Cavuto has a lot on his plate, even if he wasn’t a 54-year-old man who successfully battled Hodgkin’s disease only to wind up being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Blending affability with sharp financial acumen, balancing a tough interviewing style with boundless good humor and self-deprecation, Cavuto comes across on camera in his two daily news hours — FNC’s “Your World With Neil Cavuto” and FBN’s “Cavuto” — as being full of energy and in full command of the facts.
The reality is sometimes a little different.
Speaking to Zap2it after a long Friday (Nov. 2) of covering the shattering impact of Hurricane Sandy and looking forward to the hotly contested presidential election, taking place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Cavuto has noticed that work is sometimes good — albeit temporary — medicine.
“The biggest thing I try to do,” he says in a voice that has been raspy since MS forced throat surgery a few years ago, “is get engaged in my work and not let what I clearly feel in my body slow me down. I’m well aware of the fatigue issue. Given my hours, I don’t need a reminder of that. But I know the havoc it can play — probably you’re hearing it in my voice — and on my nervous system, as it drags on.
“But what I find interesting about it — I should write a medical thesis on it — and what I’ve noticed talking to other MS patients, when they’re in the throes of their work … A friend of mine, who’s a corporate attorney, when he’s in the throes of a big project, he somehow is able to marshal the resources to do the job. Then, afterwards, when things calm down, he just collapses. His body just gives way. I’ve had those experiences.
“It is a little humbling, because it’s like, I was going and and going and going and then, I get through Election Night, and I get through all the interviews, and I get through everything, and then it’s like my body says, ‘All right, you little effer, I’m through with you.’ And I feel it.
“I wish I could marshal whatever cells come into action during the period I’m engaged in something, because either my body chooses to re-prioritize differently or ignore the illness — not that I’m not aware of it — I do wish I could maintain that same physical energy that collapses once the deadline has gone by, and the event has passed.”
Because there is no cure for MS, and because it is a degenerative neurological condition, Cavuto faces challenges during every live broadcast.
“I’ll tell ya,” he says, “with something like this, my biggest fear with MS are the cognitive issues, that you forget things.”
Reminded that can also come with advancing years, Cavuto laughs heartily.
“That’s what my kids say, ‘It’s not MS; you’re old, Dad.’ But i think the one thing I fear is that. I try to keep these numbers and things in sync. I know my eyes will go many a night. That’s why we don’t use prompters; it won’t do me any good.
“So, I’ll commit certain things to memory. If you think of it, you just make do with what you have, and you try to protect yourself with what you have going. So, I’m pretty good with numbers and remembering stats and everything, so I’ll hang on that.
“Like anyone, under the best of circumstances, a long night is a long night. But as long as my voice holds — and more likely, my legs don’t hold up, but that’s not recognizable to a lot of people watching on TV — if I can get through with my mind somewhat intact, my voice at least not too objectionable, we should be OK.”
Asked if, as a Roman Catholic, he’s been tempted to call upon New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan to stop by the studio in Midtown Manhattan and deliver a blessing, Cavuto says, “I should! He’s just across the street.”
Barring some help from the Holy Spirit, Cavuto can always turn to spirits of a different sort.
“Some people, friends of mine with the disease,” he says, “a lot of medication comes with this disease, and they feel emboldened by liquor or wine. Some have suggested I try it out on Election Night.
“I might hold off on that, but if it gets to be a very late night, and you see me getting particularly Jerry-Lewis-like, you’ll know that I’ve opened up the chablis.”
Come Tuesday night, as the nation chooses between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Gov. Mitt Romney, Cavuto will be anchoring coverage on Fox Business Network, mixing incoming vote totals with a look at how the financial markets are reacting and commentary from top business moguls and viewers.
“It’s sort of a one-stop shop,” Cavuto says. “I think people will appreciate it. And we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We realize that life is short, and we might as well have fun. People will hopefully respond to that and like it.
“We’ll give them a lot of goodies to look forward to.”