I welcomed the doctors who had assembled from around the country to advise us. "I want to thank you all for coming," I told them. "I want to approach this in a way that makes sense. I want to be prudently aggressive. And I want this process to be helpful to others. If I can show that there is hope for me, perhaps I can give hope to all those who face this kind of disease. I want to do that. I want to give people hope." By the end of the meeting, we had decided on a plan for surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Unlike some cancers, mine would be treated like a chronic disease, requiring continued treatment after the initial phase that Vicki referred to as "shock and awe."
We headed to Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, for surgery a couple of days later. Vicki recalls that I was on the phone nearly the entire trip, asking my Senate colleagues on the committee I chaired to help shepherd through some particular pieces of legislation that were important to me. I asked Barbara Mikulski, the able senior senator from Maryland, to take the lead on the higher education bill. To Chris Dodd I turned over the work on mental health parity. I conferred with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on some of the issues that we were working on with the House. I didn’t want to leave unfinished work on the table. My personal affairs were in order, and I suffered neither dread nor anxiety. I intended to beat this thing for as long as I could. But it didn’t hurt to have all my bases covered, just in case.
The surgery accomplished everything the doctors had hoped. And as Vicki and I headed happily home to Hyannis Port a week later, we began planning our steps toward a secret goal that she and I had agreed upon the very day we committed to the surgery: if everything went as expected, we would travel to the Democratic National Convention in Denver and I would address the delegates.