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Stroger: I kept cancer secret for mom
Says he was diagnosed months earlier than staff disclosed

Friday, July 06, 2007
Crain's Chicago Business

(Crain’s) — Cook County Board President Todd Stroger conceded Thursday that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer months earlier than his staff had previously announced, but said he hid the matter until very recently because of concern for his mother.

Answering media questions for the first time since surgery to remove his prostate last month, Mr. Stroger said he did not intend to deceive voters or Democratic Party officials about his ability to hold office, but rather meant to keep a burden from his mother, Yonnie, who was dealing with the illness of her husband, John Stroger Jr.

John Stroger suffered a major stroke just a week before the March Democratic primary. Voters nominated him to be re-elected to a new term, but he stepped down three months later and his son Todd replaced him on the Democratic party’s general election ballot.

Last month, when news surfaced that Todd Stroger had cancer and would undergo an operation, his staff said he first was diagnosed in August — before the 2006 general election, but after he already had been named to replace his father on the ballot.

But Thursday, Todd Stroger said he actually was diagnosed “somewhere around April or May” — at least several weeks before he became the Democratic nominee.

Why the delay? “To be honest, I didn’t want to discuss it with my mother while she was going through all the other things” with his father, Mr. Stroger said. Ms. Stroger wasn’t informed until “about two weeks ago,” just before the news became public, said Mr. Stroger, who spoke with reporters by telephone from his home.

Mr. Stroger, 44, said he saw no conflict between his familial and public duties because his condition was diagnosed early as “nothing life threatening.”

Other officials, such as former Gov. Jim Edgar, went public with their medical problems earlier because they were more serious — in Mr. Edgar’s case, heart bypass surgery — Mr. Stroger said. “(This) will not affect my performance as president of the County Board. . . .It’s not like a brain tumor that’s growing quickly.”

Mr. Stroger said he feels “not too bad, a little soreness.” He said his physicians tell him that “everything looks clear.”

Mr. Stroger’s staff initially said only that he was undergoing a “routine” medical procedure. Mr. Stroger blamed that and the discrepancy over the diagnosis date on bad communication within his office.

“I’ve never told you anything that isn’t true,” he said. “People can say what they want, but I’ve found no reason not to be truthful.”

Mr. Stroger is scheduled to return to the office on a limited basis next week. He said his father, John, is in “stable” but “not improving” condition.

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