Doctor calls Kerry surgery for prostate cancer success

Thursday, February 13, 2003

BALTIMORE -- Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry underwent successful surgery Wednesday for an early form of prostate cancer, with his doctor saying there were no indications the disease had spread and indicating that the Massachusetts senator could be out of the hospital as early as Saturday.

"Everything looked completely contained," said Dr. Patrick Walsh, chief of urology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. "I think he's out of the woods."

Walsh said he and Dr. Jonathan Epstein, a pathologist, closely inspected the prostate and nearby lymph nodes and tissues and found no suspicious signs that the cancer had spread beyond the gland. Results from a microscopic examination are expected in a few days.

"I'm not concerned that will show anything other than what we could see today," said Walsh, who spoke with reporters following the surgery, which lasted two hours and 14 minutes. He said no follow-up radiation treatment would be necessary.

Walsh was accompanied by Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who said her husband was in good spirits. "He doesn't feel sorry for himself," she said. "He's just really grateful that this thing was found when it was."

Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, wore his military dog tags and a leather bomber jacket bearing his swiftboat platoon's patch to the hospital for good luck.

He carried a history book, joking with doctors before the surgery that, "If I read this, maybe I don't need anesthesia ... or maybe I could just read 'The New War,' " a reference to his own book on international criminal networks.

Walsh said Kerry would be walking Thursday, could resume basic tasks immediately and be on an unrestricted schedule after six weeks. Kerry was listed in good condition at the hospital late Wednesday afternoon.

The 59-year-old Kerry has vowed to return to work in a matter of days and has said the diagnosis would not derail his campaign for the Democratic nomination. Kerry has represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate for 18 years.

Although Kerry is intent on a quick recovery -- he is so far sticking with plans to be in California for a fund-raiser at month's end -- Walsh adopted a wait-and-see approach to when Kerry could resume the grueling travel schedule that is a part of a presidential campaign.

"We'll see if he can keep up with the schedule he wants," Walsh said. "I think we'll just use commonsense. He can't hurt anything by returning relatively early."

Kerry's surgery comes 11 months before the first votes are cast in a Democratic primary campaign that already has attracted six candidates.

Kerry, whose father died of prostate cancer at 85, was diagnosed with cancer on Christmas Eve. He said he waited until Tuesday to disclose his disease because he wanted to announce it on his own terms, after all family members had been told and when his doctor was available to answer questions.

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