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Rep. Norwood sicker than expected


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Rep. Norwood sicker than expected with extended chemotherapy


Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Georgia U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood could be forced to miss work as he fights through chemotherapy for cancer that has spread to his liver, his spokesman said.

When Norwood, 65, began the treatments in early December, he said he hoped to be at full strength as the new Congress convened Jan. 4.

But extended chemotherapy - complicated by Norwood's fragile health from a 2004 lung transplant - have significantly weakened him and left him spending some nights in a northern Virginia hospital.

"I just gotta get through it," Norwood said of the chemotherapy regimen. "They think they can corral (the cancer). I just gotta get through it."

Norwood, a dentist from Augusta, voted in a handful of ceremonial matters, such as the election of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the first week of the congressional session. But he missed all the votes this week on the Democrats' "first 100 hours" agenda, including votes on increasing the minimum wage and expanding federally funded embryonic stem-cell research.

Norwood spokesman John Stone said aides have been encouraging the lawmaker to focus more on his health and not on work, particularly when his vote wouldn't affect the outcome, as was the case this week.

The seven-term Republican said he was not considering a leave of absence.

"What else would I do?" he joked in a phone interview.

Norwood's latest bout with cancer is believed to be a side effect of immune suppression drugs he takes as a result of his 2004 lung transplant. He suffers from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic lung disease that required the transplant.

Last year, doctors discovered a small cancerous tumor on his non-transplanted lung. They removed the cancer with surgery, but then discovered more cancer on his liver when Norwood returned to Washington after the November elections.

Throughout his illness, Norwood - who uses oxygen and a motorized cart - has received treatment at Inova Fairfax Hospital just outside Washington so that he can remain close to work. Stone said he has recently been spending some nights at the hospital after treatments.

"I think he's doing as good as we could expect," said Republican Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville, a longtime friend. "Certainly he's a fighter. He's come through some tough times already. I'm just looking forward to him being back."

Norwood, who represents a northeastern Georgia district bordering South Carolina, was first elected in 1994 and easily won re-election in November.

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