Marc L. Goldwein
Last Modified: February 23, 2005
Senator Arlen Specter, 75, began his first round of chemotherapy on Friday after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease earlier this week.
In response to persistent fevers and enlarged lymph nodes, the senior Senator from Pennsylvania underwent tests at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, which revealed that the nodes were cancerous. Follow up tests at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania this Wednesday determined that Specter had IV-B Hodgkin's disease.
Treatment of this disease will require chemotherapy every two weeks over the next six to eight months, but Specter' oncologist, Dr. John Glick, believes that he has a 70% chance of recovery.
"He is in superb physical condition," explained Glick, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, "particularly in light of his daily squash regimen."
According to his friends and colleagues, Specter has remained upbeat. "His spirits are up," said Pennsylvania's junior Senator, Rick Santorum, "and he feels confident that he will get through this."
Specter has received the blessings and well-wishes of many of his friends, allies, and even political opponents. Democrats and conservatives alike have offered their prayers to the moderate Senator who has come under attack by both in recent months.
President Bush also called the Senator to tell him: "You're a tough guy Arlen, and we expect you to beat this."
Stage IV-B of Hodgkin's disease involves a lymphatic cancer which has spread to other parts of the body and is accompanied by fever and weight loss. Within two to four weeks, it should be evident if chemotherapy can successfully treat the cancer.
Chemotherapy has several side effects which include lowered immunity and fatigue. Specter, though, will continue his job as a U.S. Senator and chairman of the Judiciary committee.
"I plan to cut back to a 70-hour week," Specter joked, ensuring the public that Hodgkin's would not interfere with any of his duties.
A long-time proponent of increasing healthcare research, Specter has overcome several health problems. In 1993 and 1995 Specter had brain tumors removed and in 1998 he had double-bypass surgery on his heart.
Specter has also faced tough political situations which have included five senatorial elections, controversies over Supreme Court nominees Bork and Thomas in the Senate, and recent comments over abortion which nearly cost him his chair on the Judiciary committee.
"One thing Arlen Specter has demonstrated throughout his career is that he is one tough individual," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. "Anyone who knows Arlen knows he is a fighter. He will meet this ordeal with the same indomitable courage and determination that has been the hallmark of his life."
Nearly 7,500 Americans are diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease every year, and it is regarded as one of the most curable type of cancer among younger people. Specter is confident he can overcome the disease.
Said Specter, "I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery
and many tough political opponents; and I'm going to beat this too. I have
a lot more work to do for Pennsylvania and America."