The second was the way the message was delivered. Frankly, it made me furious. I am a realist, and I have heard bad news in my life. I don't expect or need to be treated with kid gloves. But I do believe in hope. And I believe that approaching adversity with a positive attitude at least gives you a chance for success. Approaching it with a defeatist attitude predestines the outcome: defeat. And a defeatist's attitude is just not in my DNA. Anyway, I'd heard this brand of doom speak before. As hard as it was to hear the news about my own illness, it was nothing compared to the body blows I'd suffered when two of my children had been diagnosed with particularly lethal forms of cancer. When Teddy Jr., then twelve, discovered the lump below his knee that turned out to be bone cancer back in 1973, our doctors warned us that very few people survived this form of the disease. We were determined that Teddy would be an exception. His leg had to be amputated and he endured two years of the most painful, taxing medication and therapy. But as I write this, Teddy is a happily married forty-seven-year old businessman and lawyer, and the father of two beautiful children. And then in 2002 my daughter Kara was diagnosed with "inoperable" lung cancer. She faced slim odds of survival, the doctor told us. As with Teddy, the family refused to accept this prognosis. We were told that every doctor we would consult would say the same thing, and I recall saying, "Fine. I just want to hear every one of them say it." But when I brought together a group of experts in the kind of cancer Kara had, they didn’t all say the same thing. She did have an operation and aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. My wife, or I, or both of us, accompanied her to her chemotherapy treatments. I prayed for Kara, as I had for Teddy Jr., and frequently attended daily mass. Kara responded to my exhortations to have faith in herself. Today, nearly seven years later as I write this, Kara is a healthy, vibrant, active mother of two who is flourishing. And so, fortified with experience and our faith, Vicki and I decided once again to fight. I would live on for as long as I could. And in electing to live on, I would offer myself as an example to those struggling with the unacceptable news that there is no hope.
From the book True Compass: A Memoir. Copyright © 2009 by Edward M. Kennedy. Reprinted by permission of Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Published on November 25, 2009