Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke with NPR for a wide-ranging interview, discussing, among other things, her health. Ginsburg has had three major bouts with cancer over the past 20 years. In 1999, she underwent surgery for colorectal cancer, followed by nine months of chemotherapy and radiation. In 2009, she underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer, and late last year, for lung cancer.
Ginsburg is not oblivious to health concerns, but she waves away worries about her future.
“There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months,” she recalled. “That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I,” she added with a smile, “am very much alive.”
But fighting cancer is wearing and hard. How does she manage her work?
“The work is really what saved me,” she said, “because I had to concentrate on reading the briefs, doing a draft of an opinion, and I knew it had to get done. So I had to get past whatever my aches and pains were just to do the job.”
The interview followed Ginsburg’s speech earlier in the day at the private funeral for Justice John Paul Stevens, who died July 16 at the age of 99.
Stevens retired from the court in 2010 at age 90, and, as the two traveled in a car together less than two weeks ago, Ginsburg told him her dream.
“I said that my dream is that I will stay at the court as long as he did,” she said. “And his immediate response was, ‘Stay longer!’ ”
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