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Ind. lawmaker says she has terminal lung cancer


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By Rob Schneider, The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. Rep. Julia Carson revealed she has terminal lung cancer in a statement Saturday in which she expressed her "eternal gratitude" to family, friends and her constituents.

The Indianapolis Democrat, who took a leave from Congress in September because of a leg infection, said her doctors discovered the cancer while treating her late this summer.

In her statement, Carson, 69, disclosed that she had battled cancer before and that it had gone into remission but was back with "a terminal vengeance."

She said she had planned to return to Washington before "the second shoe fell — heavily."

Carson made no comment beyond the statement she issued to The Indianapolis Star.

The news left her supporters saddened and hoping that somehow she might pull through.

"The statement comes as a surprise to me," said Rozelle Boyd, a Democrat and longtime member of the City-County Council. "She is able to walk with giants without losing the common touch. That is what I think was so very important to her and to the people of the district."

Carson is known as an advocate for the poor and those who can't speak for themselves.

She was first elected to Congress in 1996. Previously, she served in the Indiana House of Representatives for two terms before being elected to the Indiana Senate, where she served until 1990. She then served as Center Township trustee, a post she held until she was elected to Congress in 1996.

A steadfast Democrat, Carson opposed President Bush's request for authority to wage war in 2002 and, in 1999, won enactment of a measure awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights figure Rosa Parks.

As Center Township trustee, she turned the office's $20 million debt into a $6 million surplus. Former Rep. Andy Jacobs Jr., D-Ind., has said she "not only took cheats off the welfare rolls, she sued them to get the money."

She was twice named by The Star as Woman of the Year, in 1991 and 1974.

State Sen. Glenn Howard, D-Indianapolis, said there is nothing negative one could say about the congresswoman.

"Julia to me is one of the most beautiful people with a great personality," said Howard. "She cares about everyone, regardless of race or color."

Ann DeLaney, a longtime Democratic figure in Indianapolis, said Carson has an ability to connect with the average Joe.

"She never got Potomac fever," DeLaney said. "She was never captive of the lobbyists; she was never filled with her own self-importance or any of those kinds of characteristics that can sometimes come to people who go to Washington."

But DeLaney said it appeared Carson's health had been suffering over the past year.

"Frankly, any of us who had seen her in the last year thought there was something pretty seriously wrong with her," DeLaney said.

Carson was still capable of carrying on a lucid conversation, DeLaney said, but it seemed there was something going on beyond the leg infection, one of the ailments that Carson cited for taking a medical leave from Congress this fall.

Carson has been plagued by health problems dating to when she was first elected to Congress.

In January 1997, she took her oath of office at Methodist Hospital, where she was recovering from double-bypass surgery.

In an interview broadcast on Nov. 5, she expressed frustration over her health problems.

"I'm breathing, and I feel fine," she said. Her voice, however, sounded shaky and she had coughing spells during the interview.

"I've got bronchitis real bad now, and I hope to get over it, but you don't ever know," she said.

Boyd said Carson has been effective and that he hopes she will be able to continue in her role as congresswoman.

"I think she has been and continues to be a very important political figure in Central Indiana politics and obviously in Marion County," Boyd said. "I think that the rebuilding of the Democratic Party will rely very much on the contribution from the congressperson of the 7th District."

Howard, who has known Carson for years, said that when he saw her out on the street, she would joke that if he got in trouble, she would come down and bail him out. And when she learned of someone being sick, Carson would visit him or her in the hospital or send meals and flowers to his or her home.

Now, Howard said, it will be her friends' turn to help her.

"Anything she needs, I'll be right there."

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