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Read Joe Biden's deeply humane letter to Mark Rosen

Joe Biden lost a son to the same form of cancer Mark Rosen's wife, Denise, was diagnosed with two years ago.

Joe Biden lost a son to the same form of cancer Mark Rosen's wife, Denise, was diagnosed with two years ago. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

When Mark Rosen retired from WCCO-TV in early 2019, it was not simply because he’d decided that a 50-year career was probably enough. (To this day, he’s still making radio with the wildly popular KFAN.)

Rosen wanted more time with his wife, Denise. She'd been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive, insidious brain cancer, in 2018.

While Denise fights, Mark acts as her caregiver. Her condition, he says now, can best be described as “stable.” The overall mood is “a combo platter” of hard times and sunny patches, and they’re trying their best to enjoy their time together in the relative isolation of a global pandemic.

Last week, as presidential candidate Joe Biden accepted the Democratic nomination, he spoke at length about his son, Beau, who lost his life to the same form of cancer Denise is fighting.

The speech took Mark back to a letter he and Denise received back in 2018, shortly after her diagnosis. A mutual friend had written to the former vice president, and Biden reached out with a personal letter to the Rosens.

Biden expressed his sorrow at the news and urged the couple to “keep the faith.” In a paragraph just for Denise, he told her he was “confident” her support network would strengthen her, and urged her to remain hopeful. In another addressed to Mark, he said he knew “firsthand” what it’s like to see a loved one suffer.

“I know you will be an amazing copilot for her on this road, giving her any strength that she might need to keep flying higher,” he wrote.

“He got inside my soul with that paragraph,” Mark says. “That’s what stuck with me.”

Mark’s usually pretty private about his family’s health struggle. But on Thursday night, he felt compelled to post the letter in its entirety on Twitter, sharing how it “inspires” him when he is feeling “crushed” by the weight of what Denise is going through.

“Humanity,” he wrote, “Not politics.”

You can find it in its entirety here.

To Rosen's surprise, it blew the hell up, with nearly 21,000 likes and thousands of retweets and comments as of Monday afternoon.

Plenty of those commenters gave him heartfelt thanks for sharing the letter, and his experience. Some had loved ones battling cancer. Some were just going through a rough time, as so many are these days. The words, they said, were helpful, even if they hadn't been written for them.

He tried to respond to as many as he could, but found himself overwhelmed. There were not enough minutes in the day to craft personal responses to everyone who was touched by what he’d shared.

Of course, this is 2020, and nothing remains apolitical for long. A few commenters insinuated that Biden hadn’t actually written the letter – that it was some staffer being paid to sound sympathetic. Others took the tweet to be an endorsement for Biden’s campaign and reacted according to their personal preferences.

Rosen doesn’t care too much. People can believe what they want to believe – and will. For his part, he says he knows Biden wrote the letter, and he didn’t put this out there as an endorsement for anybody. He shared it because a human being had made a very personal gesture, and it had gotten him through some long nights. He figured other people could use that support, too.

“It’s about drawing strength from whatever works,” he says.

Not one to let attention fall on him without doing something good with it, Rosen gave a shoutout to the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, which provides outpatient recovery and care for a wide variety of brain injury survivors.