EXCERPT: Ted Kennedy's 'True Compass'

The culminating event of my hiatus on the Cape was the annual Figawi regatta on Memorial Day. In this spectacular season-opening race, some three thousand sailors in two-hundred-odd boats of all sizes compete in various divisions in a race from Hyannis to Nantucket and then, two days later, back again. Vicki and I, Teddy Jr. and his wife, Kiki, and our usual crew of good friends had won our division on the race back from Nantucket to Hyannis the previous year. I'd itched for the chance to defend my title, even after the symptoms struck; but my wise first mate was understandably hesitant. But when the weather report predicted clear skies and a strong southwest breeze for the almost due north race course back from Nantucket to Hyannis—perfect conditions for a schooner like Mya—Vicki smiled at me and said, "Let's do it." It was a glorious day. For the sake of the historical record, I will note that Mya finished second, with a crew that included Vicki, daughter Caroline, daughter-in-law Kiki, sons Teddy Jr. and Patrick, and our old friend Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

While we were sailing and digesting the news, we had asked our dear friend Dr. Larry Horowitz to line up a team of doctors to consult with us. Larry Horowitz is a Yale Medical School graduate and my former chief of staff, who had also served as staff director of my Senate subcommittee on health in the late 1970s. Larry immediately tapped into his vast network of contacts, and began feeding us advice on doctors as well as state-of-the-art medical centers. He brought them all together for a meeting in Boston.

I welcomed the doctors who had assembled from around the country to advise us. "I want to thank you all for coming," I told them. "I want to approach this in a way that makes sense. I want to be prudently aggressive. And I want this process to be helpful to others. If I can show that there is hope for me, perhaps I can give hope to all those who face this kind of disease. I want to do that. I want to give people hope." By the end of the meeting, we had decided on a plan for surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Unlike some cancers, mine would be treated like a chronic disease, requiring continued treatment after the initial phase that Vicki referred to as "shock and awe."

We headed to Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Caro-lina, for surgery a couple of days later. Vicki recalls that I was on the phone nearly the entire trip, asking my Senate colleagues on the committee I chaired to help shepherd through some particular pieces of legislation that were important to me. I asked Barbara Mikulski, the able senior senator from Maryland, to take the lead on the higher education bill. To Chris Dodd I turned over the work on mental health parity. I conferred with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on some of the issues that we were working on with the House. I didn't want to leave unfinished work on the table. My personal affairs were in order, and I suffered neither dread nor anxiety. I intended to beat this thing for as long as I could. But it didn't hurt to have all my bases covered, just in case.

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