Thursday, April 12, 2007

April 12, 2007 - Running for President, with NHL?

My, but this has been a time for celebrity cancer revelations! Today's newspapers tell of Fred Thompson, former Senator from Tennessee and a star on the highly-rated Law and Order television series, announcing that he has NHL, and is now in remission.

Thompson is also saying he's considering a run for the presidency. A conservative Republican, with national exposure from his TV role as the gruff, politically-savvy district attorney on the popular crime show, he figures he may be just the person to fill the present void in the Republican presidential stable.

What's interesting to me, of course – and, surely, to anyone else with cancer – is that Thompson doesn't seem to think his illness is any impediment to his political ambitions. He's had the disease for over two years. Diagnosed after discovering a swollen lymph node in his neck, he was treated with Rituxan and some localized radiation only – no chemo.

The Washington Post reports that he's got "marginal zone B-cell lymphoma, a relatively rare form that accounts for about 10 percent of all lymphomas diagnosed in the United States." His physician, Dr. Bruce Cheson, of Georgetown University Hospital, says, "His prognosis is excellent. We have patients out for years, leading totally normal lives, doing whatever they want, including running for president." According to Elizabeth M. Adler's Living With Lymphoma – the book I've found most useful in learning about my own situation – marginal zone lymphomas are one of the indolent types of lymphoma: slow-growing and generally responsive to treatment, but not typically characterized as curable.

So, what's Thompson's prognosis? The Post article continues:

"The longest study evaluating the usefulness of rituximab as sole initial therapy for lymphomas similar to Thompson's looked at the experience of 46 French patients. Seven years after treatment, four had died. Fifteen percent of the group were still in remission, with no evidence of disease, which is Thompson's current state. The average time until disease recurred was two years."

As cancer odds go, that does sound pretty good. Still, as a political story, this news is unprecedented. We've just seen a flurry of controversy in the media, over whether or not John Edwards should drop out of the presidential race because his wife is stricken. Now, we see a candidate himself announcing he's got cancer.

I'm glad to see that Fred has been so forthcoming about his disease. Wherever his presidential aspirations may take him, he joins Elizabeth Edwards, Rudy Giuliani and others as a role model of how to keep on living with cancer.


Tom Clarke said...

You wait until he becomes a serious candidate and then see how much of an issue it is. Some James Carville/Karl Rove type will sic 'em, although I'm sure they'll start a whisper campaign against him first.

It'll make what Nixon's people did to Eagleton in 1972 look like child's play.

Carlos ("Carl") said...

You're right, I'm afraid. Politics is an increasingly dirty business these days. Attack ads work, unfortunately. They lead straight to the least common denominator, morally speaking.

We'll wait and watch.

Bint Alshamsa said...

I certainly hope that his cancer won't be an issue. There are now millions of us living with cancer. My cancer is incurable but slow growing I've been able to live my life for many years now, long enough to have served a four year stint as President if I had run and won. :)

Fortunately, these days, almost everyone knows of someone with cancer. I think the average joe would be extremely turned off by any candidate that was so crass as to tell someone that despite what the doctors/experts say, a particular candidate with cancer will probably be too sick or dead before his/her term is up.

I actually think that having cancer may turn out to work in his favor. With healthcare being a big issue for a lot of people, having a serious disease like cancer can really give a candidate greater credibility when he/she talks about this issue and says they are seriously going to work on getting Congress to come up with a workable solution for the healthcare crisis.

Carlos ("Carl") said...

Yes, and we sure do need credible voices advocating for health-care reform. The system is seriously broken, the American people continue to say they want it fixed as one of the highest priorities, yet the politicos continue to fiddle while the hospital burns. Sooner or later, we can only hope there will be some serious retribution at the polls over this issue, and our national leaders will finally begin to listen.