Did you see the news last week about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg? The headlines were everywhere:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Treated for Cancerous Tumor on Pancreas (AP)
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Undergoes Radiation Therapy For Tumor (CBS New York)
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg Treated for Pancreatic Cancer (Variety)
That the news of her latest cancer treatment made Variety just goes to show that she's a rock star way beyond her position on the top court of the United States.
There were dozens more similar headlines. It would be gratifying to know that the media is as much in love with the “Notorious RBG” as so many women of all ages are but the more likely explanation that she is 86 years old, and if she leaves the bench, President Trump will get his third appointment tilting the Supreme Court even further to the political right, six justices to three.
I'm a fan, have been for a long time - even before the 2018 documentary, RBG, recounting her pre-Supreme Court legal wins that changed the world for women. That film won at least 13 major awards including the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
Maybe I see her as such a hero, too, because she is small and she is quiet, not the sort of person in our selfie-driven, narcissistic era who usually gets a chance to stand out. But she does, entirely on merit.
So my heart sank when I saw the first headline about her recurrent pancreatic cancer. If you've been reading along here in the past couple of years, you know that I know a thing or two about that now – the most pertinent fact being that the overall survival rate is about 10 percent.
But the news of her treatment is heartening. It is the Supreme Court that issued a press release about it on Friday. According to the AP:
”The court said in a statement that a biopsy performed July 31 confirmed a localized malignant tumor,” reported the AP. “Ginsburg, 86, underwent a three-week course of radiation therapy and as part of her treatment had a bile duct stent placed, it said.
“The court said Ginsburg 'tolerated treatment well' and does not need any additional treatment but will continue to have periodic blood tests and scans.
“The tumor was 'treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body,' the court said.”
This was not Justice Ginsburg's first go-round with pancreatic cancer. She was successfully treated for the disease in 2009, which itself followed surgery ten years earlier for colorectal cancer.
In a sense, cancer has been a companion of RBG's for 20 years.
The past twelve months have been a particularly fraught health year. In November 2018, she fractured three ribs in a fall and in December, she underwent surgery to remove two cancerous growths from her left lung.
The news of this latest cancer treatment along with accompanying reminders of her previous cancers leave a lot of people wondering if Ginsburg will soon retire from the Court. But she seems to be indomitable.
There are reports that she attended at least one Broadway show while she was in New York City for the three weeks of radiation treatment. And according to one story, she was back at work at the Supreme Court Friday afternoon following her final radiation treatment.
Is it any wonder that Justice Ginsburg is my inspiration during my own predicament with two of the same cancers. It may be an odd thing to say but although my admiration and respect for Justice Ginsburg is wide and deep, it is moreso because we share this horrible disease.
She is a beacon to me. One thing I've learned about cancer is that if it doesn't kill you right away, it never gives up trying. In her quiet way, Justice Ginsburg just keeps on keeping on and I try to do the same.
Of course, this latest cancer announcement gives the media and other Washington watchers the chance to again speculate on Ginsburg's retirement from the Court. As she said not long ago, according to NBC News,
"'My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, stepped down when he was 90, so I think I have about at least five more years.'”
Dear god, make it so.