Former Sen. Norm Coleman disclosed Tuesday that he is weeks into intensive chemotherapy after a diagnosis of lung cancer, his second bout with cancer in recent years and one he says will test both his body and his spirit.
“I won’t lie to you. Cancer has shaken my soul. But, it has not broken my spirit,” Coleman, 68, said in a lengthy statement describing his illness and the plan for attacking it. He said he is confident the fight is “very winnable.”
Coleman, a Republican who left office nearly a decade ago, said the lesions that doctors ultimately diagnosed as lung cancer were detected during annual follow-up screening done after his prior fight with throat and neck cancer. About two years ago, he had surgery to remove tumors in his tonsils and lymph nodes and later underwent targeted doses of radiation and chemotherapy. He was found to be free of that cancer.
Coleman said doctors overseeing a clinical trial he was part of at the Mayo Clinic had warned there was a small chance of a relapse.
“The beast that is my cancer has returned. It has reasserted itself,” Coleman said. “The prognosis for metastasized cancer is typically not optimistic. But, the DNA of my cancer has shown great responsiveness to chemo and radiation treatment. My physicians at the Mayo Clinic remain optimistic that the beast can still be contained.”
Two weeks into the treatment, Coleman made light of one of the side effects. He noted that his hair has been reduced to a buzz cut, the first one he’s had since he was a 9-year-old boy.
Coleman, who has two adult children and a wife of 36 years, said he will strive to remain upbeat and “be thankful for the days we have had and be hopeful for more days ahead.”
He spent more than three decades in public service. The New York native settled in Minnesota first through his work in the state attorney general’s office and later was elected to two terms as St. Paul mayor as a Democrat. He switched parties and ran unsuccessfully as the Republican nominee for governor in 1998.
Four years later, he won a U.S. Senate seat in a race marked by the plane crash death of Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone in the closing weeks. He gave up the seat six years later in a razor-thin defeat to Al Franken following a recount and court battle.
Despite talk of a comeback in the years since, Coleman didn’t run for office again.
Coleman now leads the government relations practice for prominent law firm Hogan Lovells. He has stayed active in politics with his work for outside groups involved in big congressional races.
He said his treatment won’t change that.
“There is a midterm election,” Coleman said. “I intend to play a role in its outcome.”