Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says She's Beginning The New Year Cancer-Free

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Tuesday that she is starting 2020 “cancer-free” after dealing with a string of health problems in recent years.

In an interview with CNN published Wednesday, she said that her year was beginning on a positive note. “I’m cancer-free. That’s good,” said Ginsburg, 86, the longest-serving member on the high court’s liberal side.

This time last year, Ginsburg had missed several weeks in court after recovering from lung cancer surgery in December 2018. That was the first time in her career on the Supreme Court that she had ever been absent from oral arguments.

She went back to work to hear oral arguments in February 2019 and managed to finish the term in June, only to later have doctors find a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. The justice completed radiation treatment for the tumor in August 2019 and resumed her active schedule.

Ginsburg has been treated for cancer four times over her Supreme Court career. Prior to the most recent bouts, she was diagnosed with colon cancer in September 1999 and finished radiation treatment in June 2000. During a routine examination in 2009, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery to remove parts of that organ. 

She also fractured two ribs in a fall in 2012 and underwent heart surgery in 2014. In November 2018, she fractured three ribs after a fall, but staying true to form, she went back to work that week.

Ginsburg is known for regularly working out and continues to stay committed to her career and her health, despite those who wish her ill. Her medical history and future at the court are significant because if her seat fell vacant, President Donald Trump would likely pick her successor, widening what is already a conservative majority on the court.

“There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months,” Ginsburg said to NPR in July of then-Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). “That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I am very much alive.”

The justice has said that her career on the high court is a huge reason for her resilience.

“It’s the best and the hardest job I ever had, and it’s what has kept me going through four cancer bouts,” Ginsburg said in August during last year’s Library of Congress National Book Festival. “Instead of concentrating on my aches and pains, I just know I have to read this set of briefs, draft opinions. So I have to surmount whatever is going on in my body and concentrate on the court’s work.”