Evidence is growing that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was told he had inoperable stomach cancer before he ran for reelection in 1944, and picked his vice president accordingly.

We reported in December 1985 on the "Lahey memorandum" -- a confidential document written by the late Dr. Frank Lahey, who examined FDR in the late spring of 1944. The memo, which has still not been made public, would settle once and for all the historical question of whether the president knew he was dying when he ran for a fourth term.

Our report rang a bell with Dr. Samuel Day of Jacksonville, Fla., former president of the Florida Medical Association. But he didn't write us about it until this spring. Day, 73, recalled a visit in the late 1950s by an old friend and internationally known cancer surgeon, Dr. George Pack.

"One night," Day wrote us, "he related a story, which had been told to him by Dr. Frank Lahey {head of the famed Lahey Clinic in Boston}. It seems that President Roosevelt and his entourage came to Boston by special train to see Dr. Lahey prior to his final race for reelection in 1944.

"After intensive studies at the Lahey Clinic it was found that he had advanced cancer of the stomach. I am sure that was the stated site, as I was surprised at never having heard of any of FDR's 'stomach ailments' before that.

"Dr. Lahey told Dr. Pack that he related the findings to the president and told him he was a very sick man and he could not advise him to run for office again. Mr. Roosevelt was said to have replied, 'Well, I am running,' to which Dr. Lahey replied, 'Well, Mr. President, I would suggest that you take on a strong vice president.' It was apparently understood that this was top-secret information and nothing was published detrimental to the president."

In 1965, Pack visited Florida again and Day asked whether he had heard anything more about the FDR incident. Day quotes his friend as saying: "I spoke to Dick Cattell {Lahey's successor}, and he seemed upset by my inquiry."

Cattell "was quite short with me, saying that was confidential information and will not be released." Pack said he argued that since both FDR and Lahey were then dead, the information should be released. But he said Cattell "angrily dismissed the subject."

The secret memo we wrote about is in the possession of Lahey's longtime aide, Linda Strand, now in her nineties. Her lawyers said she has ordered the memo released, only after her death, to the FDR Library in Hyde Park, N.Y.

In a 1977 article in the medical journal Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics, Dr. Harry Goldsmith of New Hampshire wrote that in 1963 Pack told him much the same thing Day wrote to us. Roosevelt's death in April 1945 was officially attributed to cerebral hemorrhage. There was no autopsy.

Footnote: Shortly before he died, Justice William O. Douglas told us FDR had given Democratic National Chairman Robert Hannegan two choices to replace Vice President Henry Wallace in the 1944 election. Douglas was FDR's first choice, Sen. Harry S Truman his second. But he knew Truman was more acceptable to the politicians, so he reversed the order of names when he passed them on to the convention, which dutifully nominated Truman.