Former Senator Norm Coleman: 'The beast that is my cancer has returned'

Coleman beat cancer two and a half years ago.
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Norm Coleman

Former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman beat cancer once, and now he's hopeful that he can beat it again. 

Coleman released a statement Tuesday saying the squamous cell carcinoma that attacked his throat and neck two and a half years ago has "reasserted" itself in his lungs.

"The beast that is my cancer has returned. It has reasserted itself," said Coleman, whose cancer had just a 10 percent chance of coming back. "The prognosis for metastasized cancer is typically not optimistic. But, the DNA of my cancer has shown great responsiveness to chemo and radiation treatment."

"My physicians at the Mayo Clinic remain optimistic that the beast can still be contained. My hopes and prayers are for a very long time."

Doctors discovered lesions on Coleman's lungs during his most recent annual PET and CT scans at Mayo Clinic, and further study revealed that the lesions are cancerous. Coleman says his treatment plan will include immunotherapy, targeted radiation and chemotherapy, of which he's already had a five-hour round. 

"My physicians at the Mayo Clinic remain optimistic that the beast can still be contained. My hopes and prayers are for a very long time," Coleman said. 

Coleman served as a Republican senator in Minnesota for six years, was the Mayor of St. Paul for eight years and spent 17 years in the Minnesota Attorney General's Office. 

Click here for live results from the 2018 Minnesota Primary Elections.

You can read Coleman's full statement below. 

"I’m sporting a new look today. A buzz cut- which I haven’t had since I was 9 years old- courtesy of my marvelous Mayo Clinic medical team and the chemo session I endured two weeks ago.

My throat and neck cancer has reasserted itself in my lungs.

Two and a half years ago, I began a battle with cancer.

A parched throat soon revealed that behind it was squamous cell cancer originating in my right tonsil that had spread to the lymph nodes in my neck.

Caught early, I optimistically embarked on a trial program at the Mayo Clinic that included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

The cancer in my tonsil was surgically removed, along with 39 lymph nodes.

As part of the clinical trial programfian, I underwent a regimen of smaller doses of chemotherapy and radiation, based upon the belief that the type of cancer I had was much more responsive to chemo and radiation.

As a result, lower doses would mean improved quality of life. It did. For over two years, I have had clean PET scans that showed I was cancer free.

The lower dose chemo and radiation in my program was a Godsend. My side effects have been relatively minor.

My hope was that we had eradicated the beast.

Unfortunately, with any cancer, there is the threat that despite treatment, it will reassert itself.

Overall, the participants in my clinical trial have had the same percent of relapse as those who have undergone the more brutal dosing of chemo and radiation.

A 90% success rate means 10% may find that cancer has reappeared.

I am now in that 10%.

The beast that is my cancer has returned.

It has reasserted itself.

The prognosis for metastasized cancer is typically not optimistic.

But, the DNA of my cancer has shown great responsiveness to chemo and radiation treatment.

My physicians at the Mayo Clinic remain optimistic that the beast can still be contained.

My hopes and prayers are for a very long time.

Cancer is insidious. Relentless. Brutal. And, unsympathetic to its host.

Once it is in your body, even if you have wiped away all current traces of it, you live in fear that it will soon emerge from the microscopic shadows.

Every bump on the skin, every dry patch in the throat or sharp nonspecific pain, raises your anxiety level that the beast has returned. I admire the courage of cancer survivors who celebrate good health today but live with fear and uncertainty about tomorrow.

I’m 68 years old and have never felt in better shape. I played pickle ball recently with my 25-year-old nephew, a former Division 1 baseball player at Notre Dame and held my own.

But an annual PET scan followed by a CT scan at the Mayo Clinic raised some concerns and a follow up bronchoscopy at the Mayo Clinic delivered a sobering verdict. The lesions in my lungs are cancer.

I’m told that we have made great strides in calming the beast through immunotherapy and advances in chemotherapy and targeted radiation.

I am hoping, and praying, to be the beneficiary of that progress.

I can’t and won’t know what the journey looks like every day ahead of me.

I’m well past the moments of sheer terror I experienced the days after my first diagnosis.

But even with a positive prognosis there is still fear and uncertainty. Despite all the strides we have made in the battle against cancer there is so much we just don’t know or can’t explain.

Two weeks ago, I had my first five-hour paclitaxel and carboplatin chemo session.

There will be more to come.

I know the side effects will not be pleasant.

But it’s a price that must be paid if you want to kill what’s trying to kill you.

My life’s journey has never been one straight line.

It has been a remarkable path filled with detours – sharp rides up the hill – and some steep drops down the hill.

Along the way, every time one door closed – another one opened.

My wife, Laurie and I experienced the loss of two young children, Adam and Grace, from a genetic condition.

We were thankful for every moment we shared with them and learned to put every other loss or setback in perspective.

I know what real joy and real loss is all about.

There’s never been an election I’ve won, or lost, that has compared to the joy of having my children or the sadness that came with losing them.

I’ve had the honor to spend almost 35 years in public service.

Seventeen years in the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.

Eight years serving in the best job in America as the Mayor of St. Paul.

I was privileged to serve the people of Minnesota for six years in the United States Senate.

Today, I lead the Government Relations practice of one of the of the preeminent law firms in the world – Hogan Lovells – a place where United States Supreme Court Justice John Roberts was once a partner. And, who, during my time as a United States Senator, I had the honor to cast my vote to confirm to the nation’s highest court.

Yet, in the hustle and bustle of all that is my life, I still I get to spend many weekends in the magnificent lake country of Northern Minnesota.

I am a blessed man.

I thank God for all those blessings and continue to put my trust in Him.

Today, I face another one of those detours in life that requires me to have faith and trust that I am still called upon to be there for family, friends and community.

I won’t lie to you.

Cancer has shaken my soul.

But, it has not broken my spirit.

I firmly believe in the genius and care of my Mayo Team.

I believe in the power of prayer.

When I told a dear friend that I had stage 4, metastatic cancer, his response was:

“My prayers are also stage 4 and metastatic.”

I am casting my lot with the Prayer Warriors in my life – whose prayers are at a higher stage and spread more rapidly, with more power than the beast of cancer.

I am an optimist.

Every fiber of my being throughout my life has had me believe that for every today we live, there will always be a better tomorrow.

There is plenty life ahead of me.

For how long, this I cannot say.

None of us is promised a tomorrow.

All we can do is be thankful for the days we have had and be hopeful for more days ahead.

I have a son, with an ability to lead and a compassionate heart and commitment to service which far exceed mine.

He will marry in September. His fiancé, soon to be my Daughter-in-Law, is running for City Council and I intend to do what I can to support her.

I have a daughter whom I adore – and whose intellect and drive make me look slow.

Her success in her career makes me grin from ear-to-ear.

I have a wife of over 36 years whose faith and love can conquer any beast.

There is a mid-term election. I intend to play a role in its outcome.

There is summer to enjoy at the cabin. Time to sit on the dock and watch the sun and the moon do what they do.

Fish to pull into my boat.

There are many, many more Minnesota winters I intend to endure.

There is life to live.

Standing before a packed Yankee Stadium, Lou Gehrig shared with the world news that he would wage a battle not of his choosing.

His was a battle that couldn’t be won. Mine is very winnable.

My situation may not be as dire, but my response is the same.

As poignant as his words were then, I reflect on them now, nearly 80 years later.

Knowing his career was over, and facing an ominous medical threat, he called himself “…the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

My life has been filled with blessings.

And I’m quite confident that I’ve got more service in me, more things to do for and with family, friends, colleagues and country.

I can’t control the outcome.

But I can control the attitude, and altitude, of how I deal with the uncertain future I and every other person in the fight against cancer faces.

I conclude this post with the words Gehrig chose to use in ending his remarks at Yankee Stadium.

"So, I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you."

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