Kennedy Returns to Cape Cod

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his wife, Victoria, walk with their dogs after a sailboat outing in Hyannis Port, Mass.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his wife, Victoria, walk with their dogs after a sailboat outing in Hyannis Port, Mass. (Photo: By Steven Senne/AP)
By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 22, 2008

A day after hearing the diagnosis of a cancerous brain tumor, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) left Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital and returned to his family compound on Cape Cod, hailed by crowds that lined the streets to wish him well.

Kennedy, the third-longest-serving senator in history and the patriarch of a family that has ruled Massachusetts politics since the close of World War II, headed south on Route 3 toward the beach town of Hyannis Port as more crowds turned out to greet him. One well-wisher hung a get-well sign on an overpass, prompting the 76-year-old senator to wave in return, aides said.

Upon arriving at his home, Kennedy went sailing with his wife, Victoria, and other friends.

Colleagues on Capitol Hill said they were heartened to see Kennedy in such good spirits.

"It's typical Kennedy. He's a fighter, and, at the end of the day, he wins. He's my friend. He's my hero," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

Well-wishers deluged Kennedy's office with more than 11,000 e-mails by midday yesterday, and the office's phones were flooded with callers. Other senators lent staff to help answer phones and respond to e-mail.

Kennedy was warmly applauded as he left the hospital wearing a blue plaid sport coat and open-collared shirt. He bent down to greet his two dogs, Sunny and Splash. The dogs are ubiquitous parts of his life on Capitol Hill; Kennedy frequently plays fetch with them in the park next to his Senate office in the Russell Building.

On Tuesday, doctors at Massachusetts General diagnosed Kennedy with a malignant glioma, which they said caused the seizure that hospitalized him Saturday. A glioma is the most common type of brain tumor, accounting for more than half the 20,000 or so diagnosed in the United States each year.

Lee H. Schwamm, the hospital's vice chairman of neurology, and Larry Ronan, Kennedy's primary-care physician, released a statement yesterday saying Kennedy was recovering "remarkably quickly" from the biopsy that determined he has cancer.

"He will return to his home on Cape Cod while we await further test results and determine treatment plans. He's feeling well and eager to get started," Schwamm and Ronan said.

The tumor is in Kennedy's left parietal lobe, a part of the brain responsible for speech as well as movement on the right side of the body. Experts say that the treatment options -- which range from surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy, to radiation and chemotherapy alone -- can have debilitating side effects.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the median survival rates for malignant glioma are three to five years for those with less aggressive tumors; more severe types of the cancer usually cause death in less than a year. Kennedy's medical staff has not indicated the grade of his tumor.

Aides suggested that more than a week of additional testing could be required to determine the best course of medical action.

Kennedy's absence was felt up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

President Bush signed into law a bill that bans health insurance companies from using genetic testing to block consumers' access to insurance, a law Kennedy championed in the Senate. Bush said Kennedy "has worked for over a decade to get this piece of legislation to a president's desk."

"Ted Kennedy has fought tirelessly for its passage and for the health of all Americans," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. "It is that same strength that Senator Kennedy is now using as he faces another challenge -- this time to his health."

In the Senate, the day began with floor speeches paying tribute to the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Lyndon B. Johnson. The family of the late president and majority leader was present in the gallery and in the Capitol Rotunda for the ceremony. Senators' speeches included well wishes for Kennedy, whose family has been linked with Johnson since John F. Kennedy defeated the Texan for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination and selected him as his running mate.

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