At a Library of Congress’ National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, 86-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared she’s close to being “very well” after three weeks of outpatient radiation treatment for a tumor on her pancreas, and ready to get back to work in the high court’s October term.
“Everybody in this audience can see that I am alive,” the liberal jurist deadpanned, triggering applause from the 4,000-member audience. “And I’m on way to being very well.”
“We have more than a month yet to go” before the Supreme Court term begins, she added. “I will be prepared when the time comes.”
Ginsburg’s latest health challenge was the fourth time since 1999 that she was treated for cancer. In announcing the completion of the radiation treatment on Aug. 23, the high court stated there was “no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body.”
“I love my job,” she said during the hour-long question-and-answer session, where she remained seated, perfectly coifed, wearing heels and a shawl over her shoulders. “It’s the best and the hardest job I ever had. It has kept me going through four cancer bouts… I know I have to read this set of briefs, go over the draft opinion. So I have to somehow surmount whatever is going on in my body and concentrate on the court’s work.”
The jurist was treated for colorectal cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009 and had lung cancer surgery in December.
Ginsburg credited the late Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, for providing the best example of persevering amid a health crisis. O’Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988.
“She was as close as I came to having a big sister,” Ginsburg said. “She was an enormous help in my first cancer bout. Justice O’Connor had a mastectomy and was on the bench nine days later,” she added.
She said O’Connor’s advice to her proved invaluable: “'Just concentrate on getting the court’s work done,” she said O’Connor told her.
The jurist also retold the story of how she earned the title of “the notorious RBG" from a second-year student at the New York University Law School.