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Kerry Undergoing Cancer Surgery
Massachusetts Democrat in 2004 presidential race
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sporting a leather bomber jacket and appearing upbeat, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry arrived at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, before sunrise Wednesday, announcing he was ready for surgery to remove a cancerous prostate gland.
"I feel terrific, ready to go," said Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, as he offered a thumbs-up to nearby reporters.
Kerry publicly disclosed his condition Tuesday, vowing, "I'm going to be cured."
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a survivor of prostate cancer surgery, threw his support behind Kerry Wednesday on CNN's American Morning with Paula Zahn.
"We [cancer survivors] understand what you go through and the fears that you have, how you have to overcome them and figure out the treatment that you need," Giuliani said.
"Senator Kerry is a good example to men to get an examination, get it early, keep getting it and then you'll pick it up at an early stage and you'll be able to do something about. That's the key to curing prostate cancer," Giuliani added.
Doctors discovered a localized tumor on the senator's prostate in December, detecting it "at the earliest stage that it's really almost possible to be detected," Kerry said. He predicted that he'll be released from the hospital by this weekend.
Kerry, whose father died of prostate cancer, said he didn't expect the surgery to hurt his presidential campaign. "I know I'm going to be cancer-free ... I don't think it's going to have any impact at all," he said.
"I intend to be back and at it again pretty soon," he said.
Kerry said he's undergoing "nerve-sparing" surgery intended to reduce the chances of either incontinence or impotence -- two common complications from prostate surgery. "I made a judgment that it is better to get this thing out of me, to be free, to get the cancer out."
His doctor, urologist Patrick Walsh, confirmed the tumor was caught early and said he expects Kerry "to return to full speed quickly."
"Sen. Kerry is strong and fit, and in no time he will be able to return to the rigorous lifestyle he enjoys with no impact on his long-term health," Walsh said in a statement released Tuesday.
Asked why he hadn't disclosed his illness earlier, Kerry said he wanted to tell relatives first.
"I believe that members of my family deserved to learn not from reading the newspapers but from me," he said.
Campaign aides said Kerry is not expected to be hospitalized for more than three days and should return to work quickly.
'Healthy as an ox'
Kerry, 59, has been closely checked for prostate cancer since his father died of it in 2000 at age 85. Campaign aides quoted Kerry's doctor as saying the surgery had a 97-percent chance of a positive outcome and that the four-term senator is "healthy as an ox."
Doctors found the tumor after Kerry took a series of medical tests in November and December in preparation for releasing his medical records to reporters in connection with his presidential bid. Blood tests showed elevated prostate-specific antigen levels -- an early indication of that type of cancer.
A biopsy taken in December turned out positive, and a full-body scan in early January found no signs the cancer had spread, according to a time line released by Kerry's campaign.
Among those considering joining the field with Kerry is Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, who about two weeks ago underwent surgery to replace a deteriorating valve in his heart, a problem discovered in a physical he took as part of his process of deciding whether to run for president. He said he would wait until he's fully recovered to make a decision on running.
Other prominent politicians who have been treated for prostate cancer include Senate President Pro Tempore Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan; former Senate majority leader and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole; and former Washington Mayor Marion Barry.