Gov. Larry Hogan announced in a news conference Monday that he has been diagnosed with Stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that he described as “very advanced and very aggressive.”
Hogan is expected to undergo six cycles of chemotherapy, each three weeks long, to help rid him of the lymphoma. In this form of cancer, a person’s normal white blood cells in the lymph system become malignant.
Hogan called the cancer a challenge “that will require me to once again be an underdog and a fighter, which is something I’m known for,” he said at the news conference, surrounded by family.
He said there is a strong chance of survival and ridding his system of the cancer, and although he appeared somber at times, he lightened the mood with some jokes.
“The best news is that my odds in getting through this and beating this are much, much better than the odds I had in beating Anthony Brown in becoming the 62nd governor of Maryland,” he said.
As needed, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will step in as Hogan undergoes treatment.
Cailey Locklair Tolle, deputy executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said her organization is “shocked” and their thoughts are with his family and friends.
“I think all of us know how tough he is and how hard he works,” she said, “ … and obviously his physicians are very optimistic about his future, and so are we.”
Ron Halber, executive director of The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said his organization admires the governor’s “fighting spirit” and that the way he discussed his diagnosis showed his “everyday man” nature.
“We just wish him well and a speedy recovery,” Halber said. “He’s in our thoughts and prayers.”
While Hogan described his cancer as aggressive and in Stage 3 of four stages, Dr. Mark Roschewski, staff clinician at Center for Cancer Research with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, said that is not as bad as it sounds.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is an aggressive disease, and a cluster of malignant cells can double in size in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, Roschewski said.
When Hogan said he felt a lump on his neck and the cancer was also detected in his abdomen and near his spinal column, that probably means a group of lymph nodes was found in those locations, Roschewski said. It doesn’t mean the governor has cancer in his abdomen or spinal column, the doctor, who works in the center’s lymphoid malignancies branch, said.
During Hogan’s chemotherapy treatments, he most likely will receive between three to five different drugs intravenously. He should not feel ill during the procedure but generally will be affected the following week, Roschewski said.
Whether he can continue working during that time is hard to predict and depends on several factors, including his general health and the molecular profile of individual tumor cells. The goal is for patients to be treated without having to be admitted to a hospital, Roschewski said.
It is crucial to start the chemotherapy quickly, Roschewski said, which is something Hogan said he was doing.
Because Roschewski is not familiar with Hogan’s exact medical condition, he wouldn’t give a prognosis. However, he said more than 50 percent of people with this form of cancer go into remission and only need to be monitored over time to check for reoccurrence.
“Typically things that grow quickly come back quickly,” Roschewski said.
The disease often occurs in people in their early to mid-60s. Hogan is 59 years old.
Many area politicians expressed their concern for the governor.
Del. Dan Morhaim, D-District 11, wished the governor a full and speedy recovery and praised him for the nature of his news conference.
“I thought his speech was poignant and very brave and honest,” Morhaim said. “I compliment him for being so upfront about something that’s tough to talk about.”
During his speech, Hogan spoke about recent procedures as well as the treatment to come.
Del. Shelly Hettleman, D-District 11, said this is “beyond politics” and said her thoughts and prayers are with Hogan and his family.
Del. Dana Stein, D-District 11, also gave him credit for his transparency and wished him a full recovery.
“My heart goes out to him and his family,” Stein said.