She refuses to wear the face of a victim. Look at her and you might wonder, "a victim of what?" Geraldine Ferraro glows. She's upbeat--and for now she's in remission from multiple myeloma.
She says she "feels great," even "wonderful."
Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer of the blood that erodes the bones and within 5 years leads to death for the majority of the people diagnosed. Ferraro was diagnosed after a routine exam in the winter of 1998.
"She was diagnosed approximately 2 1/2 years ago," says Dr. Ken Anderson, Ferraro's doctor. "For a while she didn't need any therapy. Then we treated her briefly with high dose dexamethozone, or what you might know as steroids."
Then Ferraro's doctors put her on low doses of thalidomide. She became one of the very first patients in her condition to start taking the pills, which have a controversial past.
"Thank God for thalidomide," says Ferraro.
Ferraro and her doctors believe that thalidomide, a sedative once banned around the world for causing birth defects, is what's keeping her alive.
"It has the ability to not only kill the tumor cell directly but also to act in the neighborhood or in the bone marrow to make it impossible for the myeloma cell to grow and survive there," says Anderson.
Ferraro, now aged 65, is no stranger to the spotlight. A former US congressional representative from New York, she was also the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1984.
Thursday she will testify at a Senate hearing about the benefits of thalidomide for cancer patients. She is trying to help others, but doesn't want to become known for her illness.
"I don't want to have a big 'C' on my face, because that's not me," says Ferraro.
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