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Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate Kindle Edition

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Length: 287 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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About the Author

Senator Arlen Specter is Pennsylvania's senior senator. First elected in 1980, he is now serving his fifth term. Throughout his Senate career, he has served on the Judiciary Committee, which he chaired in the 109th Congress (2005--2007) and continues to serve as its ranking member. Among his many other Senate duties, he is also a former chairman and current ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

Frank J. Scaturro is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He has served as counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee on Senator Specter's staff, where he specializes in judicial nominations and constitutional law issues. He is the author of President Grant Reconsidered and The Supreme Court's Retreat from Reconstruction: A Distortion of Constitutional Jurisprudence and coauthor of Public Companies.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Does stress cause cancer? A November 2005 New York Times article considered the connection between stress and cancer an open question but noted “a tenuous connection between stress, the immune system and cancer with a surprising new insight that is changing the direction of research: it now appears that cancer cells make proteins that actually tell the immune system to let them alone and even to help them grow.” Women reportedly seemed convinced that stress caused their breast cancer while the “male ego” caused men to view stress as a “sign of weakness” better kept inside.1 I do not believe in keeping such concerns bottled up, but I also do not believe a challenge should be avoided because it is stressful.

One of my congressional colleagues, former Representative Billy Tauzin, who filled a vacant seat in the House of Representatives in 1980, the same year I was elected to the Senate, is sure that stress and tension caused his cancer. In the summer of 2003, Tauzin relates, he took excessive quantities of Motrin, which caused a bleeding ulcer and inflamed his immune system. He explained his situation to me, saying that stress creates the inflammation of the immune system, which then impedes it from functioning. When the immune system is, in effect, worn out, cancer sets in. He said the bleeding ulcer was diagnosed in December 2003, and a rare intestinal cancer was diagnosed in March 2004. That February he had an operation that removed portions of his stomach, intestines, and pancreas; the cancer had come within a half centimeter of his pancreas. Had the cancer invaded that organ, it most likely would have been fatal, since pancreatic cancer is virtually incurable. Tauzin noted that the operation took out twelve lymph nodes, three of which had dead cancer cells, which indicated that the immune system had successfully fought off some of the cancer attack. His operation, conducted at a very prestigious hospital, did not remove all the cancer, and when he then went to the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, he was told he had a 5 percent chance to survive. He was prescribed a drug known as Avastin, which was off label, meaning it was not designed for his kind of cancer. Miraculously, as he put it, the Avastin normalized his situation and eliminated the need for another operation.

After his treatment, the congressman was advised by his doctor that he would have to give up his seat in Congress if he was to have any chance of beating the cancer. Following that advice, he did not run for reelection in 2004.

When I met him for lunch in February 2007, he was robust and healthy and working for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). He said he had selected that job because he could help the pharmaceutical industry develop drugs to save other people’s lives. Tauzin said that he was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer in the intestines at the same time that Representative John Dingell, his predecessor as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, who later became chairman after the Democrats gained control in 2006, was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer in his stomach. Tauzin asserted that beyond any question, both illnesses were the result of stress. After Tauzin had the operation, he was treated with massive doses of chemotherapy. He said his capacity to endure the chemotherapy was considered very surprising by the doctors.

He then disregarded his doctors’ advice: He was counseled against exercise, but he drove a tractor or bulldozer on his Louisiana ranch in his effort to regain his physical strength after losing forty-five pounds in his fight with cancer. He undertook that course because he felt that he could beat the cancer only if he regained his strength and stopped losing muscle. He recounted his “fear” every time he would take a CT scan: When he started to feel good, he thought the good cells were returning and was worried that maybe the bad cells were returning as well. When he took a CT scan and got a favorable report, he characterized himself as being euphoric. On one occasion, the doctor was otherwise engaged and took an hour and a half to tell him the favorable results, during which time he was very worried, thinking that the news would be bad. He was much relieved to find the news was good and expressed surprise that the doctor would keep him waiting so long before giving him the news, leading to additional stress. This resembled several of my own experiences with insensitive doctors. During our lunch, however, the former congressman was in his characteristic jovial mood, his health challenge largely behind him and a promising future still ahead.

My own story began in 2004, which promised to be an eventful—and stressful—year. The people of Pennsylvania had never elected anyone to a fifth term in the Senate, and the approaching election promised to add to a list of political challenges I had faced during my public career. With the challenges invariably came excitement, but not always success. Apart from my days in the Air Force (1951–53), my government service dated all the way back to 1959, when I served as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia. From there, I was elected as district attorney, a Republican in a heavily Democratic city, though not before participating in a dark chapter of history, serving as a member of the staff of the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In 1967, while serving as district attorney, I ran for mayor of Philadelphia and narrowly lost. Six years later, in 1973, within weeks after the Saturday Night Massacre that cast a cloud over Republican candidates everywhere, I found myself unseated as district attorney in a devastating loss that many thought marked my political demise. Those who would have bet against me for the next five years would have ended up ahead. I made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 1976 and for governor in 1978.

But the tide turned in 1980 when I won my first term to the Senate. The three reelection campaigns that followed were successful, but always with an effort—particularly my 1992 general election campaign against Lynn Yeakel. She capitalized on the controversy surrounding my questioning of Professor Anita Hill during the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Clarence Thomas the year before, and polled less than three percentage points behind me. It had been said that I alienated the entire electorate, half by voting against Judge Robert Bork, whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated in 1987 after I led the Judiciary Committee questioning, and the other half by questioning Hill and voting to confirm Thomas.2 It may be that a senator cannot do his job without angering everyone sometime.

Surviving so many potentially career-ending challenges left me confident I could win tough battles. Nowadays, getting renominated by one’s party is usually not a tremendous struggle for senators, and incumbents routinely win primary election contests. To be sure, there have been and will continue to be exceptions. In 2002, Representative John Sununu defeated incumbent Bob Smith of New Hampshire in that state’s Republican primary, but Smith had alienated many Republicans by bolting the party to run for president, only to return to it soon after. In 2006, incumbent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut would be defeated in a bitter Democratic primary based on his  support for the war in Iraq.

In 2004, I was the only sitting senator to face a primary. In retrospect, after the Hodgkin’s diagnosis, I wonder if the stressful, intense primary campaign caused or contributed to the cancer. The reelection campaign was challenging because of my long track record as a centrist Republican in an increasingly polarized environment—one in which power has seemingly shifted to the extreme ideological base of each party, with potentially dire consequences for the elected official who does not meet the criteria of activists on the far ends of the political spectrum.  This polarization created a stressful environment for the primary.

This situation was something of a break from the past. Among Republican incumbents, I was perhaps the last of a group of centrists that once included Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood of Oregon, Bob Stafford of Vermont, Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, Bill Cohen of Maine, John Chafee of Rhode Island, Warren Rudman of New Hampshire, Alan Simpson of Wyoming, Jack Danforth of Missouri, Charles Percy of Illinois, Charles Mathias of Maryland, and my colleague from Pennsylvania, John Heinz.3 Others had since taken their place—Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins readily come to mind—but there is no doubt the ranks of the centrists have been diminishing. Linc, as we called the younger Chafee, would be defeated in the November 2006 election.

What was true in so much of the country was reflected in Pennsylvania. In April 2004, the Los Angeles Times observed, “Though Pennsylvania has a history of electing centrist Republicans, such as former Governor Tom Ridge and the late Senator John Heinz, that is changing.”4 As a Wall Street Journal column noted, “Republican primaries used to hinge heavily on the four big suburban Philadelphia counties.” This had changed as the party’s growth occurred “west and north of that region—Lancaster and York and Lehigh Counties.”5 My first Senate victory began with a successful challenge to Harold “Bud” Haabestad, the state Republican chairman and Princeton basketball star who was the choice of the statewide Republican leadership, in the 1980 primary. Nearly a quarter century later, a parallel challenge would be launched, only this time I was the organization’s choice.

Like modern races for the presidency, the 2004 primary campaign began well before...

Product Details

  • File Size: 338 KB
  • Print Length: 287 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0312383061
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (July 1, 2010)
  • Publication Date: July 1, 2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00166GNTE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,502 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A. Reader on March 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The best autobiography inspires us to do better ourselves, as well as illuminating why people act the way they do and their influence on others. By this standard, this continuation of the story of the life of Arlen Specter deserves a read by anyone interested in the world-shaping recent events in which Senator Specter was a key player. More importantly, like autobiographies of his hero, Winston Churchill, Specter's book argues that the most constructive response to adversity is to fight it with all the strength you can muster. Few will have to confront political and military trials like Churchill's, but most of us can learn a powerful lesson from Specter's health trials, and his forceful response to them.

Diagnosed with advanced Hodgkins Disease cancer in 2004 after a grueling re-election campaign, many who didn't know Specter assumed that he would soon disappear from the Washington scene, one way or another. Even those who knew of his energetic response to earlier serious health threats thought that his luck had run out. They were wrong; Specter made his own luck. If possible, he worked even harder during his very public chemotherapy, a campaign that he credits with his beating the odds of recovery.

Specter's brand of moderate Republicanism guarantees that everyone disagrees with him on some things. The one constitutent letter I have written him urged him (fruitlessly) not to to support the appalling nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be Attorney General. But the world needs more men of principle like Senator Specter, and I'll bet that the next challenge he faces will be handled in the same brave way that he faced the ones in this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles T. Robbins on April 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm somewhat biased, as a former staffer and co-author for Sen. Specter, but Never Give In is a terrific read and an important work. This first-hand account of a solon's battle with cancer offers expert advice on combating deadly disease, an inside view of the highest levels of government and politics, and timeless insight into the human spirit. All the more rare and revealing -- and courageous -- from a senior U.S. Senator, who operates in a world in which any personal detail is potential fodder for critics and opponents. My 10 years working for and with Sen. Specter gave me the equivalent of a PhD in politics, government and life. Readers can get a good chunk of that value in this one volume.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Pennsylvania on April 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As we enter a period of all-politics, all-the-time tv, this is a good break from the usual talking heads. Senator Specter provides a behind the scenes look at the Senate--from whence the presidential nominees spring. In addition to an inspiring story of battling cancer, and of the life and death struggles of other senators and their families, are memorable vignettes about the politics of judicial nominations, senate committee campaigining, and medical misdiagnoses of terminal illness---all stirred with dry wit and frank discussion of illness and fate.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Laurie Andersen on April 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful read.. it has been a long time since i've found a book that I could not put down. It is so interesting to see Senator Specter's relationships with his family and other members of Congress. The detailed exchanges with Senators Biden, Harkin, and Coburn provide a rare look into the camaraderie of our elected officials-- something that cannot be found on CSPAN 2. I highly recommend this book to anyone who knows someone battling cancer or anyone who has an interest in politics. I hope he writes another one in the near future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LEON L CZIKOWSKY on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Cancer survivor and cancer battler Arlen Specter has written a book of optimism from the viewpoint of one who can see cancer as both a political issue and a personal struggle. He sees the growing number of people affected directly and indirectly by cancer and other serious diseases as forming a movement demanding that cures be found. The National Institute of Health, which has been strongly supported by Senator Specter, is working with research universities and pharmaceutical companies to find these cures.

Senator Specter recalls how President Nixon declared war on cancer. He frets how, if only we had devoted the resources towards health care research as we did towards war, we probably would have won the war on cancer by now.

The National Institute of Health, followed closely behind by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are among the best of all Federal agencies, according to Senator Specter. He is proud to have been a leader, along with allies such as Sen. Tom Harkin, in the fight to increase NIH funding on medical research from $3.6 billion in 1981 to $11.2 billion in 1994 and to $29.1 billion in 2006. Progress have emerged directly from these projects on combating heart disease, cancer, AIDS, stroke, and many other leading health problems. Millions of lives have been improved.

Arlen Specter writes of the shock of being told he has cancer. The mind has many questions, of one's mortality, of chances, and how it will change one's life. It is also traumatic having already been told once before he had cancer, underwent operations, and told in a misdiagnose he was soon to die.
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