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"Lawmaker's Cancer Gives Her a New Mission"


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http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/met ... 40783.html


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AUSTIN — It was just a slight cough and a tingling in her fingers.

State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon wasn't really worried about either as this year's regular legislative session was winding down at the Capitol.

“We were all coughing,” she said. “It's like a meat locker in there.”

As for the tingling, a fellow lawmaker suggested it might be carpal tunnel syndrome because she did a lot of repetitive page-turning as a member of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee.

It was enough to prompt McClendon to see a doctor, and the diagnosis turned out to be stark: stage 4 lung cancer, which already had spread to her brain. Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of lung cancer.

“It just felt like I was laid out on the floor, and somebody just dropped a bowling ball in the middle of my stomach,” said McClendon, D-San Antonio, who had quit smoking in 1998. “It was just like — just everything went out of me.”

Aggressive treatment

Then she got busy figuring out what to do.

“You are in shock for a day at least, but then you've got to pull yourself together,” McClendon said.

Surgery wasn't an option, so she embarked on a course of radiation and chemotherapy that drove the cancer into remission.

McClendon plans to start “maintenance” chemotherapy in December. In the meantime, she has gone public with her story because she wants to share her good fortune by urging people to get potentially lifesaving screening and checkups — and not let fear hold them back.

“I wanted people to know if they get detected for it early, if they get treatment, then there is life,” she said. “It's not a death sentence.”

McClendon praised her doctors, including Dr. Amy Lang, a medical oncologist at the START Center for Cancer Care in San Antonio, who she said prescribed a “very aggressive” treatment plan. She said Lang came highly recommended and did a good job of answering the questions McClendon and her husband had about treatment.

It's a mutual-admiration society.

“Everyone that meets Ruth falls in love with her, including me,” said Lang, who emphasized McClendon's message, saying, “Don't ignore your symptoms. Go and see your doctor if you think something isn't right. Trust your gut instincts.”

Hopes and prayers

McClendon's cancer “is an incurable disease as of today, but she has had a dramatic response to chemotherapy and radiation,” Lang said. “Her prognosis is good. She knows that there's a possibility that the cancer could come back, but we know that using the maintenance therapy has been shown to prolong that time before the cancer comes back.”

Besides the power of medicine, McClendon also credits the power of prayer — her own prayers and those of family and friends.

“When someone tells you (that) you have stage 4 cancer and it's inoperable, you depend very heavily on your medical team, and I had a very excellent medical team,” she said. “But without prayer, there is no way you can get through anything of that magnitude.”

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(Chron./Houston & Texas News, Article by Peggy Fikac, San Antonio Express News, November 26, 2009)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not being posted with the intention of being medical advice of any kind.

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