The Fight of His Life
Giuliani in the early stages of prostate disease
With equal measures of warmth, solemnity and confidence, Mayor Giuliani embarked on the fight of his life yesterday as he told the city he has prostate cancer.
Standing alone at a podium in City Hall's Blue Room and speaking in a relaxed, direct manner, the mayor confirmed he had been diagnosed with the disease that killed his father in 1981 and has now thrown his Senate campaign into question.
"It's contained within the prostate, and it appears to be a form of cancer they have had a lot of success in curing," Giuliani said at a hastily arranged morning news briefing as shocked aides watched.
"The bad news is that there's cancer," he said, stressing that the disease is in the early stages. "The good news is there are lots of possible options" for treatment and a full recovery, including radiation and surgery.
He is expected to follow his schedule of campaign appearances through at least Wednesday and have a more definitive statement in "two to three weeks," after deciding on a course of treatment. "I hope that I'd be able to run," he said.
Earlier, the Republican mayor broke the news to his wife, Donna Hanover, and their two children and to senior advisers.
Giuliani, 55, began his 8 a.m. staff meeting with the words, "Let me just tell you. ..." Asked what he told his family, Giuliani said, "I just explained it."
Hanover said in a statement: "I'm very optimistic about Rudy's recovery. We have discussed this, and I will be very supportive of him in dealing with the choices he has to make."
During the extraordinary day, Giuliani kept to his ordinary duties, meeting with Gov. Pataki and holding a town hall meeting in Queens, where he received a standing ovation from a crowd of more than 400.
He also underwent more tests.
Cancer of the prostate, a gland involved in semen production, is the second most common type of the disease found in American men, after skin cancer. The overwhelming majority of men whose cancer is detected early and treated remain free of the disease for at least 15 years.
Giuliani's disclosure left Republicans holding their collective breath over the prospect of facing Democratic Senate contender Hillary Rodham Clinton in November without their star candidate.
"It's on the verge of panic," GOP strategist Jay Severin said.
The First Lady, who spoke by telephone with Giuliani yesterday, said in a statement, "Like all New Yorkers, my prayers and best wishes are with the mayor for a full and speedy recovery, and I hope that everyone joins me in wishing him well."
If the mayor remains in the race, he faces the challenge of running the nation's largest city, running for Senate and battling to recover his health, all at once.
When asked about his campaign, he said, "I don't know the answer to that yet. I hope that I'd be able to run."
Giuliani's cancer was confirmed after a biopsy Wednesday at Mount Sinai Medical Center, ordered after doctors spotted possible trouble in a blood test the mayor took two weeks ago as part of a routine physical.
He was informed of the results by phone, and he met later Wednesday with his urologist, Dr. Alexander Kirschenbaum.
"Several of the samples — thank goodness not all, and not most — had indications of cancer," Giuliani said. "It's at a very, very early stage of the disease. It's also at a very early stage of determining what to do about it."
The American Cancer Society predicts there will be about 180,400 new cases of prostate cancer this year, and that 31,900 men will die of the disease.
Although men of any age can get prostate cancer, it is found most often in those over 50. About 90% of the men diagnosed survive at least five years, and 63% live for at least 10.
The mayor informed senior aides of his condition at the 8 a.m. staff meeting, though some had learned of his test results Wednesday. Staffers were shaken, but no tears were shed. Giuliani was "upbeat and affirmative," said one aide.
The Rev. Alan Placa, a Catholic priest who has known Giuliani since they were 13, said the mayor gave him the news by phone. "I think I was more upset by it than he was," Placa said.
At City Hall, Giuliani tried to lighten the somber mood when asked by a reporter if he might emerge from treatment with a sweeter disposition.
"No way. No way," the mayor said, leaving the room amid applause.
He also kept his sense of humor last night at Public School 129 in College Point, Queens, where he held the town hall meeting. Pointing to TV cameras, he quipped: "Actually, they want to see if I can walk."
Others Who Have Faced Prostate Cancer
Joe Torre, 59, Yankees manager: The skipper who led the Bombers to three World Series championships in four seasons stunned the team during last year's spring training by announcing he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He returned to the dugout a few weeks after surgery, and his cancer is in remission.
Arnold Palmer, 70, golf champion: He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and opted for radical surgery. Palmer required some radiation therapy but quickly returned to the links. He has been an active fund-raiser and spokesman for prostate health.
Rupert Murdoch, 69, media baron: The Fox TV czar and owner of a string of newspapers that includes the New York Post was diagnosed with the disease two weeks ago. He faces treatment for low-grade prostate cancer and is expected to recover.
Bob Dole, 76, 1996 GOP presidential candidate: The former senator underwent successful surgery in 1991 and returned to active public life. He was hired as a pitchman for Viagra, which is used to combat the impotence many men suffer after prostate cancer treatments.
Norman Schwarzkopf, 65, Desert Storm military leader: The now-retired Army general was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993 and underwent successful surgery May 25, 1994.
Michael Milken, 53, former Wall Street titan: The junk bond king was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 1993, after serving a three-year prison sentence for securities fraud. He took testosterone-reducing pills, changed his diet and announced in 1995 that the disease was in remission.
Alan Hevesi, 60, city controller: The possible Democratic mayoral contender was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996. He chose surgery to remove the gland and did not require radiation or chemotherapy. He missed a few weeks' work after the surgery.
Guy Molinari, 71, Staten Island borough president: The longtime pal of Mayor Giuliani and GOP stalwart was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997. He was treated with radiation seed implantation in the prostate and missed a couple days' work after treatment.