Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday he is “100 percent cancer-free.”
The governor said a diagnostic test Monday morning showed the aggressive chemotherapy treatment he underwent this summer eradicated the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma doctors found in June.
Hogan's voice cracked with emotion several times during his remarks, as he thanked his family, other cancer patients and complete strangers for their support during his public battle with cancer.
“My hair will start to grow back,” Hogan promised. “Before you know it, I'll be back to 110 percent.”
Amid treatment in August, Hogan said a scan showed 95 percent of the cancer had been killed. Monday's scan, he said, means the cancer that had progressed to Stage 3 is now in remission.
“This report couldn't be any better,” Hogan said. “However, it does not mean that I'm cured.”
The new Republican governor announced in June that doctors found 60 tumors in his lymph system. Hogan had sought treatment for a golf ball-size lump in his neck that he discovered while shaving. Doctors say Hogan’s prognosis appears good.
“He's very likely to stay in remission. He couldn't be doing any better at this point,” said Dr. Kevin Cullen, director of the University of Maryland’s Greenebaum Cancer Center, where Hogan was treated. “When someone goes into remission very quickly, it's an extremely good sign.”
Cullen said Hogan’s biggest challenge will be limiting his activity. “He's such a high-energy person, it's hard for him — even when he was in the middle of the chemotherapy treatment — to get enough rest.”
Dr. Paul Celano, head of medical oncology at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, agreed. “Most people who go into complete remission go into long-term remission,” he said.
Celano, who did not treat Hogan, said the governor’s age, energy and the way his disease appeared to respond to treatment put Hogan’s chance of relapse over the next five years at “maybe around 20 percent, at most.”
Hogan curbed his public appearances while undergoing treatment, but he continued to work full time and conduct state business from his hospital room at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. He also became an advocate for cancer awareness, hosting events and rallies.
He did not, however, always follow doctors' orders. He joked Monday about how his medical team would chide him after seeing his Facebook page full of images of the governor shaking hands and hugging strangers.
The 18-week treatment included three surgeries, four spinal taps and 30 days in the hospital for chemotherapy treatment. Cullen said Hogan would still get a monthly antibody treatment.
Hogan forged friendships with other patients who, he said, didn't see him as a governor. One of them is 5-year-old Andrew Oberle, a leukemia patient who offered the governor tips on how to deal with chemotherapy and quickly became his pen pal.
Andrew and his mother were in Annapolis on Monday for Hogan's news conference. Afterward, Andrew told reporters he had not told anyone else in his kindergarten class that he had struck up a friendship with Hogan. “I made it top-secret,” he said.
In response to a reporter's question, Hogan said he never considered resigning. “I never even really slowed down,” he said, but added that at times, he trimmed an 18-hour workday to eight hours.
He brushed off questions about whether he would seek re-election, saying that decision was “way” down the road. During his treatment, however, his campaign account maintained an active schedule of fundraisers.
Also during that time, the governor made bold and controversial policy moves to shut down the Baltimore City Detention Center and abandon plans for the proposed Red Line light-rail route in the city.
The governor has enjoyed growing popularity since he took office in January. A Goucher College poll released last month found 54 percent of those surveyed had a favorable view of Hogan — a 21-point increase from February.
“The honeymoon period will start to come to a close,” said Mileah Kromer, director of Goucher’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, which conducted the poll. “With this cancer fight behind him, he'll be distraction-free.”
Hogan announced he would remain committed to raising awareness and funds for cancer. So far, his website Hoganstrong.com has collected $35,000 from the sale of “HoganStrong” T-shirts and other gear, spokesman Doug Mayer said. The group, an LLC, promises to donate the proceeds to charity.
The governor said such work is his “new calling.”
The news of Hogan's remission drew a standing ovation from a room packed with his family members, staff and Cabinet secretaries. Hogan's frequent critic and sparring partner, Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch, released a statement calling the announcement “great news.” State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller called the news “a tremendous gift for him and his family as we approach this holiday season.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a friend of Hogan’s who has been wearing a lime-green “HoganStrong” bracelet since June, celebrated the announcement on Facebook as “great to hear.”
Since Hogan's chemotherapy treatment ended in October, he has increased his public appearances, and on Tuesday he plans to fly to Las Vegas to give a keynote speech at the Republican Governors Association meeting.
“We didn't miss a beat,” Hogan said. “Can you imagine what we can get done in the next five months?”