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Stroger's cancer diagnosed prior to his nomination

Friday, July 06, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by David Mendell

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said Thursday that prostate cancer had been diagnosed in him months before he was picked by Democratic Party leaders to be on the ballot in 2006, and that he did not publicly disclose the serious illness because he did not want to compound his mother's woes.

"To be honest, I really did not want to discuss it with my mother while she was going through her problems," Stroger told reporters, referring to the March 2006 stroke suffered by his father, then-County Board President John Stroger.

Todd Stroger, 44, spoke via conference call as he recuperated at his South Side home from surgery two weeks ago to remove his prostate gland.

He said he could not pinpoint exactly when the cancer was found because "I was doing so many things and those days are fuzzy." But he estimated that it was as early as April or May of last year. He was not placed on the ballot to replace his ailing father until July 2006.

Stroger said he did not tell his mother about the cancer until after his surgery last month.

Stroger's administration had said the diagnosis came only 10 months ago, putting it about August 2006. Stroger blamed that erroneous date on miscommunication among his public relations staff.

His medical condition was not grave and did not immediately threaten his life, Stroger said. Because of that, he said, it was not imperative that he inform Democratic Party officials or the public. He said he was suffering from a slow-growing cancer that could be treated without surgery, at least initially.

"What I had was something that would not truly affect me until sometime into the future if I didn't do anything at all," Stroger said. "It's not like a brain tumor that grows very quickly and you don't know what's going on. Prostate cancer generally takes some time to develop."

County Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside), who lost to Stroger in the fall election, said he did not buy Stroger's new timeline.

"His team knew a long time ago that it would have been damaging to him politically to disclose this and they chose to deceive the public until it would be of no consequence," Peraica said. "They have manipulated this information to their own political advantage and I think it is unfortunate."

Stroger said he was experiencing a little soreness but generally felt good. He said he would return to the office next week to resume an "abbreviated schedule."

He said he opted to be treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital rather than at the county hospital bearing his father's name on the advice of a urologist at Stroger Hospital. The county doctor told Stroger that Dr. William J. Catalona was an expert at treating younger men with prostate cancer, Stroger said.

Asked about his father's condition, Stroger said only, "stable, but not improved."

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