Never does the political become so personal as when a public figure has cancer.

Never does the political become so personal as when a public figure has cancer.

I was reminded of that again this week, with the announcement that Teddy Kennedy has what appears to be a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer.

I was reminded about a year ago, when Elizabeth Edwards stood with her husband John and told the world that the campaign would go on, despite the news that her breast cancer had metastasized.

The next week it was Tony Snow. Different political party, same grim prognosis.

They all remind us that power and money hold no sway over the insidious, ugly disease that can take command of the organs that sustain our bodies.

Reigning patriarch of America's "royal" family? Some lab in some hospital will still look at your tumor under a microscope. The stage and grade of your cancer will pretty much predict the time you have left, whether you live in Hyannis Port, Mass., or Portsmouth, Ohio.

Your husband is running for president? It doesn't matter. Once the doctors pronounce the "M" word, you become subject to the cancer prognosticators' favorite banalities.

"Your life expectancy is now measured in terms of months, not years."

"Your cancer can be treated, but not cured."

And a Republican spin doctor may write scripts for the president, but not for his own oncologist.

If he is anything like my doctor, he pronounces the bad news first and very clearly, then follows up with some compassion. Oncologists are probably pretty much the same in Washington as they are in Worthington.

In fact, I probably have something else in common with Kennedy, Edwards and Snow. We are all probably covered by the federal government's excellent Blue Cross Blue Shield policy, the one being touted as the gold standard in health insurance.

And yes, good insurance may translate into early diagnosis, and we all know how important it is to "catch it early."

So yes, socio-economic factors may play into the treatment of cancer.

But not much.

Political factors are important. This country's "war on cancer" is more like a minor skirmish. Funding for research has not increased for many years.

Yes, there have been advancements, especially for diseases like juvenile leukemia.

But most Americans naively believe that "there is so much more than can be done these days."

Well, not necessarily. Once you have cancer, you quickly learn that there are major limits to "what can be done," regardless of your status or insurance coverage.

I have bladder cancer, for which the treatment is approximately the same now as it was 20 years ago.

When I was diagnosed nearly two years ago, I quickly went through my first transurethral resection, which basically means the doctor inserts through the urethra tools to cut, scrape, and burn away the tumors.

The lab looked at the not-so-lovely tumors and declared them stage one, grade three.

Stage one means you don't have to have your bladder removed, yet. And probably, the cancer has not spread.

Grade three means the cancer grows fast and comes back. Basically, it means I have the kind that can take my life. Mean, they say. Aggressive.

I then had six BCG treatments. BCG is a form of immunotherapy that is, again, inserted into the bladder through the poor urethra.

Six weeks later, the doctor took another look at the inside of my bladder and found another tumor.

At that point, I knew I needed to find the best urologic oncologist in Columbus. My original urologist was kind, but young. I needed someone who had seen tumors that acted like mine, not once or twice, but hundreds of times.

Through my many friends in the Worthington community, I was directed to Dr. James Simon. The message I got was that he would be the best at treating a woman with a recurrence of bladder cancer.

That was the best advice I ever received.

Two more transurethral resections followed. At one point, we decided that removing my bladder was the only choice. Then a surprising lab report showed that the cancer was either gone, or very localized. Then a CT scan showed a suspicious thickening in the bladder wall.

During an appointment that I will remember in vivid detail forever, Dr. Simon described the surgery that was necessary. He did not know how far the cancer had spread, or which organs might need to be removed. Probably my bladder would be removed, perhaps more.

In the end, inside the operating room, Dr. Simon made the rather courageous decision to save my bladder. Part of it was removed, my left ureter was reimplanted because the cancer was growing near the opening, and my left ovary was removed because it was in the path of my newly redirected ureter.

Dr. Simon and his assistant, Dr. David Brown, spent four long, difficult hours in the operating room trying to save my life and my bladder. Dr. Simon said that he left the bladder because he believed there was no more cancer there.

He was right. The post-op lab reports showed no cancer in the bladder, no cancer in the lymph nodes.

That was nearly 18 months ago. I return to see Dr. Simon on a regular basis. At first, every three months. Then every four months. My last examination was May 9. This time, we will wait six months.

So far, or so far as I know, the cancer has not returned. And, in case you were afraid to ask, my partial bladder works perfectly.

That doesn't mean the cancer won't return. I am aware of that every day. I am guilty of spending way too much time reading about bladder cancer on the internet. I have concluded that the chances of my cancer returning are somewhere between zero and 100 percent.

Some days are easier than others. At times, I can lull myself into the complacency of everyday life, and almost forget to worry.

Then I read about Teddy Kennedy, and hear anonymous television experts blathering on with clinical detachment. Cancer, they say. Nonoperable. Chemotherapy. Life expectancy. Recurrence. Metastasis.

They may say other words, but those are the ones I hear.

I suspect those are the ones Teddy hears as well.

Candy Brooks reports on public affairs for ThisWeek Worthington.