Ferraro battling blood cancer
Politician being treated with thalidomide.

Story ran on Tuesday, June 19 2001

NEW YORK (AP) - Former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic Party nominee for vice president in 1984, is battling blood cancer.

Ferraro was diagnosed with multiple myeloma after a routine physical in December 1998. The blood cancer erodes the bones and leads to death within five years for half of those with the illness.

Ferraro, 65, disclosed her illness in a New York Times interview published today and a "Today" show interview. She said she feels fine right now and doesnít want anyone to feel sorry for her.

"I donít want anybody to treat me any differently," Ferraro said on "Today." "Iím still going to go on and do the things that I do."

For two years, Ferraroís disease was classified as "smoldering myeloma," or inactive.

When tests showed the cancer cells were multiplying, Ferraro was prescribed thalidomide, the drug that was banned years ago after it was linked to birth defects among babies of pregnant women who took it as a sedative.

It has since been found to be effective against cancer, and Ferraro was one of the first patients in her condition to receive the controversial drug.

The thalidomide has put Ferraroís cancer into remission, and so far she has been able to avoid chemotherapy - and stay positive.

"This is a race I may not win, but Iíve lost other races before, so itís not the end of the world," she said.

Ferraro was picked to run as Walter Mondaleís vice presidential candidate in 1984 - the first woman to run as a major party candidate for national office - and ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat from New York in 1998.

She plans to testify about her illness at a Senate hearing Thursday, as an example of progress made in battling the disease.

Ferraro said she and her husband, John Zaccaro, are moving from their Queens home to an apartment in Manhattan at the end of the year. She said she wonít be able to climb stairs in their four-story home if she gets weaker.

"You always anticipate in a marriage that the wife is going to survive the husband," Ferraro said. "Iíve taught him how to make breakfast now, and heís not bad at making sandwiches ... but I donít expect that that will happen for a while."

There is no cure for multiple myeloma, which accounts for about 1 percent of all cancers and about 11,000 deaths annually. It suppresses the immune system, leading to anemia, infections, nerve failure and bone fractures.

Ferraro said she will spend the next few years enjoying her family and would like to increase awareness and raise money for cancer research.

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