Making up for lost time

By Bella English
Globe Staff / August 8, 2009

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In the 1980s and ’90s, Marjorie Clapprood was all over the place: in the state Legislature, on talk radio, running for lieutenant governor with John Silber. An outspoken liberal advocate for many causes, the three-term lawmaker was named legislator of the year eight times. She hosted talk shows on WRKO radio, New England Cable News, and Lifetime Television. But in 1998, after barely losing her run for the House seat vacated by Joe Kennedy, she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Today, after chemotherapy, an experimental drug therapy, and a bone marrow transplant courtesy of her sister Maureen, Clapprood is once again busy - and visible.

Q. You’re a high energy, social person. What was it like to be in isolation following the transplant?

A. I’m very type A. The toughest part for me was not being able to be with my family and friends. The highlight of my day was when my daughter would come over with her four kids and swim in our pool. So I could see them in the pool and they’d come to the sliding glass and draw me pictures and do things to make me laugh. Everything I ate had to be frozen or canned or highly processed. I couldn’t go near trash or laundry, which was great.

Q. So are you cured?

A. They don’t use the word ‘cure.’ What my doctor said was that every two months they’ll do a bone marrow biopsy. It’s worked so well it’s silly. I’m back at the gym working out. I’m cancer free right now.

Q. You and your husband (restaurateur Chris Spinazzola) have started Clappazzola Partners. What is it?

A. We promised each other once I could get back out there working we would do the work we love and also make a living so we could spend more time together. We do some lobbying, some public speaking, a lot of work for nonprofits, everything from fund-raising to infrastructure. I’m now so much more aware of others who aren’t as fortunate as me and I’m supposed to be doing something for people who don’t have that.

Q. And you’re working on a book?

A. The working title is, “In Search of a Cubby.’’ Metaphorically, it’s a place of safety or security, a roof over your head, a full belly, the promise of good health care when you need it and the guarantee that there is one human being on this earth who will stand in front of a truck for you. That should be every child’s birthright.

Q. Do you see a future back in politics?

A. I don’t think I’ll ever not be engaged in politics in some form, whether it’s working on someone’s campaign or lobbying on Beacon Hill or Washington. I would love to run for office but it’s an undertaking where I have twice bankrupted myself. You need about a million dollars to launch a credible campaign, and I’m about $990,000 short.