CATEGORY: Governor

AUTHOR: BOBBY

HED: Fordice faces another bout with cancer

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON - Gov. Kirk Fordice revealed Thursday he will undergo five to seven weeks of radiation treatments to battle a cancer that's yet to be pinpointed by doctors.

"Lots of people have gone through this same scenario and have gone ahead to live out a normal life span and that is what (my) doctor expects," Fordice, 64, said during a news conference at the state Capitol.

Fordice underwent surgery in 1993 to remove a cancerous prostate, and since then, has undergone quarterly blood tests to determining whether cancer had returned. He said for the past two years the pattern of the blood tests had caused reason for concern.

Fordice said the treatments shouldn't affect his ability to govern. As he answered questions near the Capitol rotunda, his wife, Pat, and one of their 10 grandchildren, 3-year-old Nicholas Fordice, looked on as the governor's black Labrador retriever, Lance, wandered around in the hall near his master.

Radiation recommended

This past week, Fordice said his doctor, Jackson Fowler of the University Medical Center in Jackson, recommended the radiation treatments.

"My fight with cancer has brought me into contact with some incredible people," said Fordice, who also survived a life-threatening car accident in 1996. "Luckily, you are seeing more and more cancer survivors everyday. I intend to remain in the company of the good cancer survivors of Mississippi."

Fordice said the radiation treatments probably will start in mid-December and be administered five days a week in Jackson.

The governor said the doctor told him there would be "no ill effects at all" other than being "a little tired" near the end of the treatments.

About two years ago, prostate-specific antigen blood tests indicated there might be some type of problem. Fordice said bone scans and biopsies at the time did not find any cancer. As the prostate-specific antigen levels continued to rise, Fordice said his doctor recommended the radiation treatments.

Dr. Bert Duncan of Tupelo, a radiation oncologist, said the tests that did not reveal any cancer were good signs for the governor. He said that indicated the cancer probably was localized to the pelvic area and had not spread throughout his body. The localized cancer means there is a better chance of fighting it through the radiation treatments in the pelvic area.

"I think he should do well," Duncan said. "The treatments shouldn't be too much for him."

Legislators respond

Legislators, who often have had a stormy relationship with the two-term Republican governor, wished him well.

"The governor is doing what any prudent man his age should be doing - and that is following the advice of his doctor," said Rep. Mike Chaney, a fellow Republican and former Tupelo resident, who now represents Fordice's hometown of Vicksburg in the Legislature. "I wish him a speedy recovery. Our prayers are with him."

"We're sorry to hear of the governor's medical condition," Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said. "We wish him a speedy recovery. He and his family will be in our thoughts and prayers."

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Tupelo, also wished Fordice a speedy recovery.

Referring to the governor's often combustible relationship with the Legislature, he said, "I wish him well and hope he lives another 20 years to worry the hell out of somebody other than the Legislature."

Several legislators said Fordice's toughness and willingness to fight should help him.

"I know that the governor is tough physically as well as politically," said Sen. Bennie Turner, D-West Point. "I hope and pray for his full and speedy recovery."

"Knowing Gov. Fordice, I expect him to bounce back from this very soon," said Rep. Charlie Williams, R-Senatobia.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, agreed.

"My perception is that a person's mental outlook in a very important factor is something like this," Bryan said. "The governor will do very well in that area. He is a fighter and he has a lot of self-confidence. I am sorry to hear he has a problem, but I feel certain the governor will do well."

Despite the 1996 wreck and the return of the cancer, Fordice said Thursday, "I have never felt better. I feel great."

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