Tough appellate cancer babes

Senator Bunning is feeling some heat now for having said that Justice Ginsburg has "bad cancer.  The kind that you don't get better from," and that "usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live."

Well, while Justice Ginsburg may perpetually look like a stiff wind could carry her away, the Senator's predictions might be a bit premature.  She is made of pretty stern stuff and, in the immortal words of Monty Python, isn't dead yet. 

She was back in court Monday, 18 days after her surgery for early stage pancreatic cancer.  She was active on the bench and issued a decision yesterday.  No stranger to the disease, her mother died of cancer the day before she graduated high school, and her husband had it when she was in law school (and survived).  She herself had colon cancer in 1999 when she was 66 years old.  She underwent chemotherapy and radiation and did not miss a day on the bench.  

Justice Ginsburg had an example to follow before her - Justice O'Connor, who had breast cancer in 1988 when she was 58 years old.  She, of course, while no longer on the bench (she stepped down to care for her sick husband) is still among us, too.  She had a mastectomy and chemotherapy and also did not miss work – at one point having an interval of five days between her mastectomy and oral argument.  (What do you expect from someone who didn't even have running water or electricity in her house until she was 7 years old?)  Oh yes, and while doing her chemo, Justice O'Connor kept up going to the exercise class she had started at the court, at 8 am.  I personally find this last factoid amazing, since the chemo for breast cancer can do a real number on your red blood cells and make climbing stairs an adventure.  I ran a marathon before my diagnosis, but while undergoing chemo a brisk walk on the beach was plenty for me, thank you very much.

While these are probably the two most high profile examples of women attorneys plugging away while dealing with cancer, I could recite a host of examples much closer to home.  Someone here underwent her radiation while studying for the bar (she passed).

Chemo, surgery and the whole nine yards is not fun, particularly the chemo (a medical form of waterboarding, as I thought of it – trying to get as close as they can to killing you without actually doing so).  And to top it off (literally), women lawyers typically have to do it all with a dead muskrat sticky-taped to their heads to avoid the Sinead O'Connor look.

Grit alone can't kill cancer.  That said, I don't think Justice Ginsburg is about to go gentle into that good night.  She got through it once; she can do it again.  And I say, you go, girl.        


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