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Jack Layton’s health: more of what he’s said

With an election all but inevitable, the NDP leader’s health is a legitimate issue


 

As a reporter, I’m used to posing unwelcome questions. It’s often a fun part of the job. But I felt uneasy, when interviewing NDP Leader Jack Layton for this story, asking him repeatedly about his health. It felt like prying, even though this seemed so clearly a matter of legitimate public interest as we headed into a very likely spring election campaign.

Apparently, I’m not the only reporter who feels this way. When Layton took questions in the foyer of the House earlier today, CBC’s Laurie Graham prefaced her query about his health by saying, “It seems very personal, and I apologize for that.” Then Graham asked if Layton—who was diagnosed with prostate cancer early last year, underwent treatment, and then had hip surgery early this month—is still being treated for cancer. His answer:

Well, I work with my doctors on an ongoing basis like most people with cancer to monitor the situation. They’re happy with how things are going. And like so many people with cancer, you go off to work every day and provide for your families and get the job done. And I draw a lot of inspiration from Canadian people who are in that situation, hundreds of thousands of them, probably.

I reported in Maclean’s on the gist of Layton’s answers about his health. But with an election all but inevitable now, I thought there might be interest in a fuller transcript of that part of our exchange. We spoke in an NDP meeting room just off Parliament Hill on March 11, and I asked about his health before moving on to other questions:

Q. How did you break your hip?

A. I don’t know and the doctors don’t know. When I first began to feel the pain they did an X-ray and they literally could barely could see any fracture. They said it might be a fracture, why don’t we just take the weight off it and see if it heals up. Unfortunately, the bone was not able to handle the fracture. It just got worse. And before you knew it the only option was surgery. It wasn’t going to heal itself.

Q. Are you’re up to campaigning?

A. Of course if we have a campaign I’ll be starting in the recovery cycle from hip surgery. But we all know people who have gone through hip surgery, and they universally tell you that the first week or two is difficult because the tissue is healing up—you’ve had surgery.

Q. What did the surgeons do, put in a pin or something?

A. That’s too much detail.

Q. You don’t want to get into that?

A. No.  I will probably fire off the security. There’s metal in there now and I’ll have to show them a picture. I played a lot of squash for a lot of years. Could that have been the origin of the problem? Who knows? It’s like your favourite old car. A part will wear out. So there’s metal in there.

Q. Is the hip problem unrelated to your cancer?

A. They don’t draw a link because they literally can’t figure out how it happened.

Q. So you’re good to go on a campaign?

A. Yeah. Actually, you make major progress in that first week [after hip surgery]. I’m already way ahead of where they would have expected me to be. The physiotherapist—what did she say?—‘You’re a prodigy.’

Q. Before your hip problem you were getting over prostate cancer treatment. When were you in treatment?

A. Well, I was diagnosed on Feb. 2 [2010], so a little over a year ago.

Q. And has the cancer treatment gone well?

A. It has gone very well. For people who follow this sort of thing, my PSA is virtually undetectable and it has remained at that level. So that’s why we have a high level of confidence about where we are on that.


 

Jack Layton’s health: more of what he’s said

  1. They are difficult questions but I think it's fair to ask. Mr. Layton is running as the leader of a major party, hoping that he can form a government.

    Prying would be if a newspaper sent a reporter to stand outside the private home of minister in, say Paris, to see who comes in and out of the home. And it has been done.

  2. They are difficult questions but I think it's fair to ask. Mr. Layton is running as the leader of a major party, hoping that he can form a government.

    Prying would be if a newspaper sent a reporter to stand outside the private home of minister in, say Paris, to see who comes in and out of the home. And it has been done.

  3. Jack Layton is a good man. I hope Canadians are reminded in this election of the "Taliban Jack" attacks from The Harper Government. The whole world is in agreement with Jack now about Afghanistan..

  4. Jack Layton is a good man. I hope Canadians are reminded in this election of the "Taliban Jack" attacks from The Harper Government. The whole world is in agreement with Jack now about Afghanistan..

  5. Androgen suppression therapy is a common part of treatment for prostate cancer. There are studies indicating an increased risk of bone fracture associated with such treatment. Mr. Layton is being a bit disingenuous when he suggests his doctors are puzzled by his hip fracture.

  6. Androgen suppression therapy is a common part of treatment for prostate cancer. There are studies indicating an increased risk of bone fracture associated with such treatment. Mr. Layton is being a bit disingenuous when he suggests his doctors are puzzled by his hip fracture.

    • I'm not sure that's fair. You don't know that Layton has read those studies indicating an increased risk of bone fracture, and you don't know whether his puzzlement wasn't projected on to his doctors if they answered his question with "I don't know." And they wouldn't know for a certainty, even if they had read a study that indicates an increased risk. Now, the doctors might be accused of not answering the question fully, but it's not like they were under oath or appearing as a witness in a parliamentary committee, or they might not have read the study that indicates an increased risk. But either way, I don't think you can assume Jack was being a bit disingenuous.

      • Then he's remarkably incurious about his own health – which is, I admit, possible, but seems out of character. The link between the two conditions isn't an absolute certainty, of course, but it does seem to be a fairly clear association – and not at all hard to find in a simple google search. Anyway, one can only hope for the best for him. Election campaigns are stressful enough without having other worries.

        • Frankly, I don't think people in Layton's position are ethically required to be completely forthcoming about the minute details of their health. It is a private matter. Layton does have an ethically requirement to be forthcoming with his understanding of his prognosis, i.e. is he healthy enough to run, is he healthy enough to govern if he wins. Of course, some additional explanations are required when & if symptoms or treatments interfere with schedules and activities.

          With the improvement of treatments, for many cancer has gone from being a death sentence to a chronic condition that needs to be managed. While I don't support his politics, I applaud Jack for his courage and class in dealing with his medical condition.

          • It may make a difference if the politician in question actually holds an important public office. The US president, for example, has enormous power and individual responsibility, and the US has developed a rather obsessive interest in his (or, potentially her) health – to the extent that medical records are routinely released. Canadian PMs have, in theory, less direct power and we have been less intrusively curious. In Mr. Layton's case, since he is very unlikely to ever hold public office, other than as an MP or leader of his party, there is considerably less justification for intrusive questioning.

          • I agree the US interest is obsessive, and I would add unhealthy. Since the doctors know their reports will be released, I suspect all those reports are doctored for public viewing.

            If people want a doctor to sign-off that a candidate is well enough to run, I have no issue with that. But it should simply be a yes-no result not a detailed release of personal information.

          • The issue isn't whether Layton is ethically required to speak more openly about his prostate cancer treatment and prognosis. The issue is that he presents himself as a champion for the cause, and yet chooses not to be completely open and forthcoming. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2010, and after testing and consultation, opted for a radical prostatectomy in mid-January. There were, however, several other options and it would be instructive to know what choices Jack Layton had for treatment, and why he chose the one he did.
            If he really wants us to believe his public disclosures are about advancing awareness and knowledge about prostate cancer, and not about political gain, he should be more open and forthcoming about his diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

          • And you expect him to do this in a scrum? Good grief.

          • I'm an 8 yr stage 4 cancer surviver.

  7. It's interesting how in interviews about his health he uses "we" and "us" rather than "I" and "me".

  8. It's interesting how in interviews about his health he uses "we" and "us" rather than "I" and "me".

  9. You were at these events as an observer?

  10. You were at these events as an observer?

  11. I wish him luck, but he needs to be more candid about his health, he is after all, aiming for the big job.

    He doesn't look in great shape,he is doing too much too soon, I think it will show a lot during the campaign, I won't be surprise if at sometime he quits the race.

    I do wish him well, he is a good guy!

  12. I wish him luck, but he needs to be more candid about his health, he is after all, aiming for the big job.

    He doesn't look in great shape,he is doing too much too soon, I think it will show a lot during the campaign, I won't be surprise if at sometime he quits the race.

    I do wish him well, he is a good guy!

    • He was candid about his health.

    • You have to push yourself. So far, I'm my Onc's star pupil.

  13. I'd be more worried about Harper, he looks like he has been packing on the pounds again and sways back and forth when he walks. But then again he could be druck with power.

  14. This comment was deleted.

    • I assume druck is a brilliant hybrid between drunk and duck, meant to convey both the walking style and the cause. Of corse, it coud be we have bothh had two muck to drinck oursalves.

    • Actually, I though Mr. Harper looked as though he was losing weight

  15. Stay well, Mr. Layton. Health-wise, I mean. May you be healthy enough to put up a good strong redistributionist big-government fight, and may you be rejected overwhelmingly by Canadian voters.

  16. Stay well, Mr. Layton. Health-wise, I mean. May you be healthy enough to put up a good strong redistributionist big-government fight, and may you be rejected overwhelmingly by Canadian voters.

  17. So if I'm reading you right, what you are saying is…"that's what he said"?

    (Heaven forgive me, I could not resist ;)

  18. So if I'm reading you right, what you are saying is…"that's what he said"?

    (Heaven forgive me, I could not resist ;)

  19. I'm not sure that's fair. You don't know that Layton has read those studies indicating an increased risk of bone fracture, and you don't know whether his puzzlement wasn't projected on to his doctors if they answered his question with "I don't know." And they wouldn't know for a certainty, even if they had read a study that indicates an increased risk. Now, the doctors might be accused of not answering the question fully, but it's not like they were under oath or appearing as a witness in a parliamentary committee, or they might not have read the study that indicates an increased risk. But either way, I don't think you can assume Jack was being a bit disingenuous.

  20. I can understand you not being comfortable John, it's a delicate subject to question somebody about, but still probably necessary given what is coming. I'd say you handled it very well.

    Good luck Mr Layton. I'm sure 5 weeks campaigning takes a heavy toll; hope you are up to it.

  21. I can understand you not being comfortable John, it's a delicate subject to question somebody about, but still probably necessary given what is coming. I'd say you handled it very well.

    Good luck Mr Layton. I'm sure 5 weeks campaigning takes a heavy toll; hope you are up to it.

  22. Then he's remarkably incurious about his own health – which is, I admit, possible, but seems out of character. The link between the two conditions isn't an absolute certainty, of course, but it does seem to be a fairly clear association – and not at all hard to find in a simple google search. Anyway, one can only hope for the best for him. Election campaigns are stressful enough without having other worries.

  23. He was candid about his health.

  24. He's a far better man than Harper.

  25. He's a far better man than Harper.

  26. I wish Mr Layton all the best. He’s a good man, and a good politician.

    That being said, I want him to lose ;)

    I like him, just not his politics.

  27. I wish Mr Layton all the best. He’s a good man, and a good politician.

    That being said, I want him to lose ;)

    I like him, just not his politics.

    • Harper is the Ultimate Example of a Public Servant TroughFeeder!!

      I am ashamed as a Canadian every time I see him on TV or read him quoted in teh Newspapers.

      I wish him good health, but that's it!!

  28. Frankly, I don't think people in Layton's position are ethically required to be completely forthcoming about the minute details of their health. It is a private matter. Layton does have an ethically requirement to be forthcoming with his understanding of his prognosis, i.e. is he healthy enough to run, is he healthy enough to govern if he wins. Of course, some additional explanations are required when & if symptoms or treatments interfere with schedules and activities.

    With the improvement of treatments, for many cancer has gone from being a death sentence to a chronic condition that needs to be managed. While I don't support his politics, I applaud Jack for his courage and class in dealing with his medical condition.

  29. I assume druck is a brilliant hybrid between drunk and duck, meant to convey both the walking style and the cause. Of corse, it coud be we have bothh had two muck to drinck oursalves.

  30. Mr. Layton will not last through this electiion.
    The stress will cause him to quit 1/2 way through.
    Not just his hip, he has cancer to deal with.

  31. Mr. Layton will not last through this electiion.
    The stress will cause him to quit 1/2 way through.
    Not just his hip, he has cancer to deal with.

  32. Actually, I though Mr. Harper looked as though he was losing weight

  33. "…. CBC's Laurie Graham prefaced her query about his health by saying, “It seems very personal, and I apologize for that.”

    This is great example of what's the matter with Canadian msm. Personal !?!?!?

    Layton wants to be Prime Minister and electorate have a right to know about potential PM's health problems. Layton is on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals at the moment and they are surely affecting how he thinks and acts. If Layton has a problem answering private questions then he shouldn't have a public job.

    I wonder what else our msm isn't asking of MPs because they are shy or afraid of asking 'personal' questions.

  34. "…. CBC's Laurie Graham prefaced her query about his health by saying, “It seems very personal, and I apologize for that.”

    This is great example of what's the matter with Canadian msm. Personal !?!?!?

    Layton wants to be Prime Minister and electorate have a right to know about potential PM's health problems. Layton is on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals at the moment and they are surely affecting how he thinks and acts. If Layton has a problem answering private questions then he shouldn't have a public job.

    I wonder what else our msm isn't asking of MPs because they are shy or afraid of asking 'personal' questions.

    • There are a lot of personal questions that are not asked, and personal information that is not reported (divorces, affairs, drinking problems, etc.) I doubt that we are worse served by this than the Americans who obsess over such things, yet don't seem to have a better crop of politicians to choose from than we do. In Mr. Layton's case no one actually thinks he's ever going to be PM, so there is little justification for demanding more information on his health than he is willing to volunteer.

  35. The egoes and lust for power are so overhwelming a person of his tenuous health should think of something or somebody besides himself and reconsider trying to lead a third rate party in a major election. People say he is a good guy–fair enough, I don't know one way or the other but I do believe he is wasting a lot of peoples time and money if he can't go the distance./

  36. The egoes and lust for power are so overhwelming a person of his tenuous health should think of something or somebody besides himself and reconsider trying to lead a third rate party in a major election. People say he is a good guy–fair enough, I don't know one way or the other but I do believe he is wasting a lot of peoples time and money if he can't go the distance./

  37. It may make a difference if the politician in question actually holds an important public office. The US president, for example, has enormous power and individual responsibility, and the US has developed a rather obsessive interest in his (or, potentially her) health – to the extent that medical records are routinely released. Canadian PMs have, in theory, less direct power and we have been less intrusively curious. In Mr. Layton's case, since he is very unlikely to ever hold public office, other than as an MP or leader of his party, there is considerably less justification for intrusive questioning.

  38. There are a lot of personal questions that are not asked, and personal information that is not reported (divorces, affairs, drinking problems, etc.) I doubt that we are worse served by this than the Americans who obsess over such things, yet don't seem to have a better crop of politicians to choose from than we do. In Mr. Layton's case no one actually thinks he's ever going to be PM, so there is little justification for demanding more information on his health than he is willing to volunteer.

  39. I agree the US interest is obsessive, and I would add unhealthy. Since the doctors know their reports will be released, I suspect all those reports are doctored for public viewing.

    If people want a doctor to sign-off that a candidate is well enough to run, I have no issue with that. But it should simply be a yes-no result not a detailed release of personal information.

  40. The issue isn't whether Layton is ethically required to speak more openly about his prostate cancer treatment and prognosis. The issue is that he presents himself as a champion for the cause, and yet chooses not to be completely open and forthcoming. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2010, and after testing and consultation, opted for a radical prostatectomy in mid-January. There were, however, several other options and it would be instructive to know what choices Jack Layton had for treatment, and why he chose the one he did.
    If he really wants us to believe his public disclosures are about advancing awareness and knowledge about prostate cancer, and not about political gain, he should be more open and forthcoming about his diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

  41. And you expect him to do this in a scrum? Good grief.

  42. I'm an 8 yr stage 4 cancer surviver.

  43. You have to push yourself. So far, I'm my Onc's star pupil.

  44. Harper is the Ultimate Example of a Public Servant TroughFeeder!!

    I am ashamed as a Canadian every time I see him on TV or read him quoted in teh Newspapers.

    I wish him good health, but that's it!!

  45. When Jack Layton says "I won't stop until the job is done," he obviously means it.

  46. When Jack Layton says "I won't stop until the job is done," he obviously means it.

  47. Should habve asked him how he and Olivia spent the Million dollars on expenses last year and probed his answer that it was for travel back and forth from Toronto and Ottawa.

  48. i think harper is much better and he is smart so he will deside good thing so i wish jack layton well but GO HARPER!

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