By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Ted Kennedy has brain cancer

Associated Press reporter Glen Johnson writes that Sen. Ted Kennedy has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Though the prognosis is uncertain, this is truly bad news both for the Kennedy family and for Massachusetts.

According to Johnson’s story, the usual course of treatment is radiation and chemotherapy, with survival ranging from less than a year to five years or more. Obviously it’s way too soon to tell whether Kennedy might be able to return to a vigorous and effective Senate career, but it’s a real possibility.

Sen. Arlen Specter, for one, has served while battling various forms of cancer, including a brain tumor, since the early 1990s.

Photo (cc) by diggersf and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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The amazing Jon Lester


Thoughts on Ted Kennedy’s illness


  1. Brian F.

    Interesting – it is now 2:45 and does not have the story. Why the delay? Drudge, Yahoo, even the Lowell Sun all have it.

  2. Brian F.

    Now the story is on However, it is posted an hour after your posting.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Brian: The AP story I linked to was the lead story on, so I’m not sure where you were looking.

  4. Michael Pahre

    According to Dr. Timothy Johnson, “In an adult, a first-time seizure, is a brain tumor until proven otherwise.”I haven’t gone through the media coverage of the last few days, but what I remember reading has pretty much avoided saying that a brain tumor was the most likely explanation — although brain tumors were mentioned in passing or buried among other possible diagnoses.Were the media being particularly conservative or hesitant in their reporting over the weekend on the most likely cause of his seizure?

  5. Anonymous

    Sen Specter was younger than Kennedy when he began his fight with cancer. I would guess that he was fitter and more vigorous than Kennedy at this stage of the game. We can always hope.What are the issues for succession, should Kennedy be unable to fulfill his duties? Who are the possible candidates? Meehan, Frank on the Dem side, and Romney, Curley, Moe on the Repub side?

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Michael: Yes, the media were being conservative and hesitant. I don’t blame them. Why would you want to get out ahead of a story like this? What if you were wrong? I’m not even sure what the value is of guessing right.

  7. R. Scott Buchanan

    Michael:I think they were being mildly conservative because there were so many other possibilities that seemed much more likely given Sen. Kennedy’s age, his weight and his history of hard living. If ever there was a candidate for transient ischemia, Ted is it, and that seems to be the angle with which the media went.

  8. Anonymous

    the media reported what they were told by authoritative sources. That inluded noting that a seizure might be set off by a stroke. No place in preliminary coverage for speculation about a brain tumor. yeesh. you can’t win with some people. the only odd thing i noticed was the globe’s reporting “two seizures” when the docs now say it was one.

  9. Anonymous

    Would Edward Kennedy’s ADVANCED BRAIN cancer treatment be allowed by the British Health System? My buddy in the National Health Service says probably not. Given his age and advanced cancer, I’ll bet the socialized medicine machine certainly would not have paid for that $10000 helicopter ride that Mr. Kennedy got from his private island paradise to the hospital. Let’s let Ted go over to Great Britain to have the doctors at the National Health Service treat his cancer. Of course, I would think that he’d be denied cancer therapy as Ann Marie Rogers (a breast cancer patient) was denied an anticancer drug by the British court. Too bad she was not allowed to buy private health insurance by the socialized medicine folks in England.Sorry, Ted, no cancer treatment for you. Health care rationing, you know. Just read the fine print in Mr. Obama’s health plan. It will all be clear then. Also, Ted Kennedy is going to have to eventually answer for Mary Jo Kopechne, in this life or after. Ted, it’s getting about time to fess up to your past.

  10. Ida

    I find it odd that all major news blogs will not allow anything bad to be said about Ted Kennedy. But I am going to say something anyway–I find it hypocritical of him to be given the best medical care, being whisked away in helicopters inorder to avoid long waiting hours in an ER and to basically say to the health care work he has apparently done over the years, “who cares, I actually need help now and I can’t be kept waiting on an HMO type system!” I honestly feel he should be put through the motions any typical American would have to go through in this situation.I personally have had eleven brain surgeries for my tumor, but some of them were cancelled because of my lack of health coverage and at other times business office representatives would come knocking on my ICU door demanding 400,000 dollars for unpaid neurosurgery bills. I was shunted around and around, and had to wait and wait to get MRIs, to get admitted, to get diagnosed, to get a biopsy, and this guy gets diagnosed in 48 hours??? Not right Ted! Not at all!

  11. Anonymous

    Hey, Anonymous! Senator Kennedy has been wonderful–a steady stalwart when many, if not most senators have flipflopped on important issues horribly. I’m hoping that Senator Kennedy beats this cancer, gets well and resumes his tireless work on behalf of all people. Bringing Mary Jo Kopechne, who’s been dead for almost 40 years, as awful as her death was, is absolutely and totally inappropriate. We’re here to respect a senator and wish him godspeed, a swift recovery, and best wishes. I say…leave Mary Jo Kopechne out of this. Thanks.

  12. mike_b1

    ida, obviously you aren’t a US Senator. And, you’re not wealthy. There is a difference.That said, given the type of tumor Kennedy has, if it is indeed located in the left frontal lobe, he is in effect a former Senator, at best. If it’s too big to cut out, the treatment (radiology and chemotherapy) is very aggressive and kills brain cells to the point he will be left with — what’s the nicest way to put this? — insufficient brain function to be useful.

  13. Anonymous

    Senator Kennedy is not dead. He is seriously ill, and likely will die, sooner rather than later as a result, but the tone of the news coverage makes it sound as if he is already gone and awaiting burial. I find it morbid. Eulogize him when he’s gone, not now.

  14. amusedbutinformedobserver

    Some people will take any opportunity to make cheap political comments.When Teddy Jr. was diagnosed with cancer, Ted Sr. made a point of the fact that his kid would get care not available to less fortunate (read: not wealthy) americans…and that it was wrong. He’s tried to do something about it. If any politician in America is going to speak out about the inhumanity of the business office knocking on the door of a stricken patient, it is Kennedy. To suggest that he not use his resources for his own medical care is an absurdityAS long as someone other than the patient is paying the bills, some treatments will not be approved — it happens every day in every country in the world. At least with “socialized medicine” the patent isn’t turned away at the admitting ward

  15. mike_b1

    anon 11:11: Didn’t you read The Great Gatsby? Go back and read Meyer Wolfsheim’s comments to Nick following Gatsby’s funeral.

  16. mike_b1

    In an earlier response, I wrote frontal lobe. That should have been parietal lobe.

  17. Anonymous

    mike_b1 8:28 I read it nearly 40 years ago & don’t remember the comments. I still have the copy, I’ll go back & reread it. I still don’t think they should be talking about him in the past tense yet, regardless of the grimness of his diagnosis.

  18. mike_b1

    Nick shows up at Meyer’s office following Gatsby’s funeral. Meyer explains his absence by saying: “Let us learn to show friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.”It’s not about playing the Grim Reaper so much as it is telling the man what you think while he’s still alive to hear it.

  19. Anonymous

    Who will speak for Mary Jo? If you read the transcipts that have been released due to the Freedom of Information Act, you would have to agree that justice was not served. What he did to that poor girl can’t be forgiven in this lifetime. He will have to account for it very soon, thankfully.

  20. Anonymous

    Let’s hope this “anonymous” character gets precisely the same justice and mercy in the hereafter, or lack of same, that he wishes on Sen. Kennedy.

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