Monday, January 4, 2010

FDR, Missing Medical Records, and Cancer

"FDR kept deadly disease hidden for years"
The New York Post (January 3, 2010)

"Some 65 years ago, as World War II raged in Europe and the Pacific, the American people faced an unprecedented constitutional crisis of which they were completely unaware -- and which has remained a secret ever since.

It has long been known that President Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the last year of his life, was gravely ill with serious cardiac problems: He'd been diagnosed with acute heart failure in March 1944 and suffered from astronomically high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis.

But what the public did not know was that four years earlier, while still in the second of his four terms as president, FDR had been diagnosed with a deadly skin cancer, melanoma, in a lesion over his left eyebrow.

This disease would metastasize to Roosevelt's abdomen and his brain, causing a tumor that eventually killed him on April 12, 1945.

Which means the cerebral hemorrhage that struck him down shortly before V-E Day was not "a bolt out of the blue," as his doctors contended -- and as historians have long believed -- but the inevitable....
"

Well, that's interesting.

Before I write anything more, please note: Apathetic Lemming of the North is not a political blog. I'm not out to cheer on one person or party, and say that everyone else is a poo-poo-head. On the other hand, I've been a historian, and never really lost the habit. Back to that New York Post article.

I had to think about the New York Post's subhead: "He kept his real illness hidden -- and may have endangered a nation" World War II was coming up, and happened, during FDR's four terms. So did the founding of the United Nations: which, according to a PBS article, is a name coined by FDR. (Kofi Annan - Center of the Storm. Timeline. 1920-1946," PBS)

FDR's dropping dead - partly because of a tumor growing in his brain - would have had, I think, a noticeable effect on the events of that period. But "endangered a nation?" Maybe, maybe not. I think America has a pretty good constitution, and a government that's built around the assumption that people aren't perfect.

Another Reason I Don't Miss the 'Good Old Days'

The closest to a constitutional crisis I remember, involving the presidency, was the Watergate era. For a while there, it looked like a large sampling of people in offices that are designated to fill in if the president, vice-president, speaker of the house, and so on down the line, can't serve - might be in jail soon.

A Wikipedia article says there are 18 people lined up to succeed the president, these days: from the Vice President to the Secretary of Homeland Security. That could be right, although the citation's link was broken. I did a little checking, and under the Succession Act of 1947, this was the order of presidential succession:
  1. President
  2. Vice President
  3. Speaker of the House of Representatives
  4. President Pro Tempore of the Senate
  5. Secretary of State
  6. Secretary of the Treasury
  7. Secretary of Defense
  8. Attorney General
  9. Secretary of the Interior
  10. Secretary of Agriculture
  11. Secretary of Commerce
  12. Secretary of Labor
  13. Secretary of Health and Human Services
  14. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  15. Secretary of Transportation
  16. Secretary of Energy
  17. Secretary of Education
  18. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
    ("Presidential and Vice Presidential Succession: Overview and Current Legislation," Congressional Research Service | The Library of Congress (March 25, 2003))
The Wikipedia article added Secretary of Homeland Security to the list, which seems reasonable enough.

Back to FDR and Brain Cancer

Sounds serious, when you put it that way: doesn't it?

The author's assertion that FDR knew he had cancer that was eating his skin, belly and brain will, I think, be hard to prove. From the looks of it, the four-term president's records were sanitized fairly well:

"...Dr. Steven Lomazow, a veteran neurologist, and I reached this conclusion -- and others about Roosevelt's health -- after a five-year investigation, the findings of which are in our new book, 'FDR's Deadly Secret.' How can we be certain? After all, Roosevelt's doctors always denied he had cancer, no autopsy was performed and, save for a few lab slips, FDR's medical file disappeared after his death.

"But a careful inspection of hundreds of photos of the lesion indicates a melanoma, according to the late Dr. Bernard Ackerman, the world's foremost dermatopathologist, who worked with us.

"Moreover, evidence from Roosevelt's shockingly inept delivery of his final public speech strongly suggests that he suffered from hemianopia -- the inability to see the text in the left side of his field of vision...."

Based on previous experience, there will be quite a bit of "is not!" and "is so!" expostulating for the next few weeks. Or months.

And, I hope, a little serious research, too.

The New Deal president's 12 years in office had an enormous impact on America's development - and on world history. His record-setting presidency gets - and deserves - quite a lot of attention from people who study the history of this country.

Now there's something new available for serious research: the possibility that there was something growing in FDR's brain during those years.

More:

3 comments:

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Better an ill Roosevelt than no Roosevelt at all.

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD!

The New Deal was packed-to-the-rafters with Left Wing Radicals. These were men (and one woman - Francis Perkins) with a serious agenda. Their main concern was for the welfare of the common man and woman. Not until (and not since) Johnson's Great Society a generation later would the betterment of the American people be the chief focus of the executive branch of our government.

There aren't many people left who even remember the Great Depression. All but a few of them have since passed on. A child born on the day the stock market crashed in 1929 would have turned eighty this past October 29. The problem is that hardy anyone alive today has a first-hand appreciation of what true progressive policies might mean for this doomed country - if only they were allowed to be put into practice in 2010. Liberalism saved America once. It could do it again. If only....

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

Tom Degan

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Tom Degan,

I'm aware of the highly elevated position that the New Deal president has in the minds of many Americans.

There is not doubt that FDR had a great impact on world history, at least through the second half of the 20th century.

Whether, on consideration, that was a constructive or destructive contribution has yet, in my opinion, to be determined.

In my opinion, whatever the results, FDR seems to have meant well.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

As for "true progressive policies" - I do not remember the Great Depression, but my parents lived through it as adults. Much of my family of origin's way of life was formed in a distinctly non-affluent setting. For which I'm grateful.

I do not, however, believe that encouraging or creating another protracted period of economic hardship would be a particularly good idea.

And, I am quite willing to seriously consider the possibility that the (enlightened?) policies of borderline collectivism did not help America recover. And that penalizing employers with taxes, regulations, and fees is prudent: assuming that the goal is to provide employment for 'the masses.'

Personally, I've never been upset that my employers had more money than I did. If that weren't the case, it wouldn't have been possible for them to give me a check at the end of the week.

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