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A response to cancer forged by Vietnam

The Democratic candidates for president have been visiting The Boston Globe for lengthy interviews with editors and reporters, allowing a glimpse beyond the usual policy issues and sound bites. Here we offer excerpts from discussions with the three strongest contenders in the New Hampshire primary: Howard Dean, John Kerry and Wesley Clark.


Kerry was asked if his successful bout with prostate cancer affected his outlook on life.

"THE CANCER, frankly, was -- it's strange. I think it's a reflection of the experience that I went through in Vietnam, that I didn't feel particularly threatened. That I felt: `I'm going to conquer this.'"And it's why I had a confidence that I could run for president, even trying to do it. Now, in honesty, I remember sitting there through Christmas [2002], surfing through the Internet, trying to read -- get some books and figure out every alternative that there was and think through what it meant to me and what my options were with respect to it. . .

"But attitudinally, which is really what the question is about, I've always said that those of us who came back from Vietnam, we sort of have this saying that `Every day is extra.' And I think there's always been a feeling in me that that's a very liberating experience, that, you know, because of Vietnam, you kind of feel, `Hey, let the chips fall where they may. Speak your mind, say what you have to do, go out and do it.'

"And in fact when we screwed around in Vietnam, which we often did, and were tempting, you know, getting in trouble for one reason or another, we always used to look at each other and say, `Well, what the hell can they do to us? Send us to Vietnam?'

"And there was a great sort of, you know, kind of `everything's-going-to-be-OK' deal. So that's how I sort of responded to it. I just had a sense of confidence. `I'm going to get through this. I'm going to be OK. It's going to work out.' And it did. . .

"You'd be amazed at the number of people who call me up now and ask me, `I've just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. What do I do? What are the options?' Robert DeNiro just had his operation, and he and I were talking before about what the options were, and others. I've met people at campaign events who come and say, `You know, I'm -- I got this problem [whispers]. And what do I do?' And it really reminds you why it's so critical for every single American to have the same health care that senators and congressmen get."

in their own words
 IN THEIR OWN WORDS: WESLEY CLARK: Leadership is about working with people (1/1/04)
 IN THEIR OWN WORDS: HOWARD DEAN: Decisions involve diagnosis, intuition (1/1/04)
 IN THEIR OWN WORDS: JOHN KERRY: A response to cancer forged by Vietnam (1/1/04)
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