Dead at age 77, Senator Ted Kennedy's battle with brain cancer helped awareness of this disease and left lessons learned.
One of my best friends, a breast cancer survivor of about 10 years, later developed what she thought were migraine headaches. When she kept complaining about no relief, I urged her to see her doctor. Six months later, just before Christmas that year, she died from brain cancer.
Lessons learned from how Senator Kennedy faced his illness are:
- While we may be unwilling to talk about death, we must prepare for our own death - he welcomed death and tied up his own loose ends.
- While others may be unwilling to let us go, we must prepare them for letting go - he gathered his family together.
- Share your feelings - he opened his home to colleagues who were in cancer treatment and spent a lot of time at Walter Reed hospital with wounded soldiers.
Known as a champion of healthcare reform, his own illness sparked debate on Capitol Hill.
"In countries that have government-run health care," warned Iowa's Republican Senator Charles Grassley, "I've been told that the brain tumor that Sen. Kennedy has — because he's 77 years old — would not be treated the way it's treated in the United States." This would be like saying, he went on, that "when somebody gets to be 85 their life is worth less than when you're 35, and you pull the tubes on them."
Source: Ted Kennedy: The Lessons of His Dying, By Nancy Gibbs Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009
According to the College of American Pathologists:
It is expected that more than 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2009. Senator Ted Kennedy's death from a brain cancer draws attention to a rare, but often fatal type disease. While the risk of developing brain cancer is relatively low, it is important to heed the warning signs and receive an accurate diagnosis.
Brain Tumor and Brain Cancer, by Debra Wood, RN
Brain Scan May Help Predict Cancer Drug Response, Her News, July 30, 2009
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