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Transcript: Governor Larry Hogan's full remarks on his cancer

The following are comments from Gov. Larry Hogan's press conference Monday, in which he announced he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

I called this press conference today to talk about a new challenge that I will be faced with. It's a personal one, one that will require me to once again be an underdog and a fighter, which is something I think I'm known for. A few days ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It's an aggressive, B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It's a cancer of the lymph nodes.

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The truth is that I've learned over the past few days that this cancer is very advanced and very aggressive. When I embarked on our trade missions a few weeks, when we went to Asia, I had no idea of my condition. I've learned a heck of a lot more in the past 10 days or so.

Much has happened over a very short period of time that has led me to seek medical attention and has brought me here to talk with you today. I'm going to face this challenge with the same energy and determination that I've relied on to climb every hill and overcome every obstacle that I've faced in my life. I'm blessed with the incredible expertise and dedication of an unbelievable health care team that I've just come to know, actually, and I can already tell they're going to be great. These health care experts are going to be helping me on my journey from diagnosis to treatment and then to recovery.

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The good news is that although the cancer I have is a very aggressive one and it's spread very rapidly, it's also one that responds very aggressively to chemotherapy treatment, and there's a very strong chance of success. Not only a strong chance of survival but a strong chance of beating it altogether and getting rid of the cancer.

The best news is that my odds of getting through this and beating this are much much better than the odds I had of beating Anthony Brown to become the 62nd governor of Maryland. The odds are better than finally doing away with the rain tax mandate. The odds are better than delivering tax relief for the families of Maryland. Better than the odds of passing a budget that doesn't include tax hikes and reigns in state spending. Better than the odds of negotiating enhanced PMT [Phosphorous Management Tool] regulations with both the agricultural community and the environmental community to help save our bay. Better than the odds of reducing tolls for the first time in 50 years.

And definitely better than actually having the Baltimore Sun name me as Marylander of the Year.

This latest challenge will require my attention and focus while balancing the demands of being the best public servant that I can be. Fortunately I'm blessed with an incredible family, a loving spouse, along with three wonderful daughters and a strong extended family, and an incredible number of devoted friends. I'm also fortunate to have a good friend and a wise and steady partner in government, and that's Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford and a great chief of staff in Craig Williams, and what I think is the best cabinet and the best governor's staff in the history of the state of Maryland. And we've got all them to back us up and help make sure we're keeping things running things here at work when I'm tied up with some treatment.

So cancer, regardless of what type it is, is a disease that has touched every one of us in this room through family or friends or loved ones. It is my hope that being candid and transparent about my battle, that I'll be able to help raise awareness that could ultimately benefit others. This weekend, like the rest of Maryland, my family celebrated Father's Day. For me, even though I had some really tough news to deliver to them, it was a special and heartfelt time to be with family with the first lady, our daughters, and with my dad, Larry Hogan Sr., my role model.

In the midst of this struggle, I was reminded once again of how truly blessed and how truly lucky I am. As I climb this hill, I remain comforted by my abiding faith that the Lord continues to bless me and will be by my side with every step, granting me the strength to defeat this disease and the wisdom and the judgment to be the public servant, public steward that I was elected to be.

Over the coming months, I'll be receiving multiple, very aggressive chemotherapy treatments. Most likely I'm going to lose my hair. You won't have these beautiful gray locks. I may trim down a little bit. But I won't stop working to change Maryland for the better. I'll be working hard and making the decisions that the people of this state elected me to make. The fact is I'm just like the more than 70,000 people diagnosed with lymphoma every single year who fight it, beat it, and continue doing their jobs at the same time.

With my faith, my family and my friends, I know I won't just beat this disease but that I'll be a stronger and better person and governor when I get to the other side of it.

Question: Are your doctors Republicans?

That's a great question and I asked the same question the other day, joking. You know, this has all come up pretty quickly and just last week it was shocking news to me but I had gotten these MRIs that showed this cancer kind of spread throughout my body, and I had three different doctors who I had just met for the first time that day, and they spent a couple of hours with me, and I said that to them, and the guy said, "We're all huge fans, governor. We think you're doing a great job."

They wouldn't tell me if they were Republicans or Democrats, but they did say they were supporters. That doesn't really matter to me. I just know I'm trying to get the best help we can get. I've got a tremendous group of the best professionals we can find and they seem to have a good idea of a plan of attack and we're going to aggressively go after it.

Question: How are you feeling?

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I actually feel pretty good. Although I've been having procedures every day, there was a story in the Post on Saturday saying I was under the weather, not feeling well, they thought maybe I caught a bug on my trip. Actually, I've been feeling fine. I did about half of my schedule over the past two weeks but I missed things because they were sending me for required things. I had to go to a CAT scan, a PET scan, an MRI. I had a minor surgery last week. They had to biopsy and remove the lymph nodes from under my arms. They had to put me to sleep, you know, it wasn't a big deal, but today, I had a bone marrow thing where they actually stuck a 12-inch thing into my hip and cored out some bone marrow, so that hurt a little bit.

I'm actually taking some painkillers, and the doctor said "I wouldn't advise you to make any serious decisions. I think you ought to rest up and stay home," and I'm like, "Well, I got a press conference at 4 o'clock." And he goes, "Well that's a really bad idea."

But I'm feeling pretty good. This stuff has kind of spread. I got of lot of it in my abdomen. It's pressing up against my spinal column. It's difficult to eat because I'm kind of full, but I'm not terribly sick. It's just something I've got to go after before it gets worse.

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Question: Can you characterize how you became aware of this?

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It was very strange, and I think this is typical of this particular disease. It just sneaks up on you. You don't have a lot of symptoms ahead of time. I'll tell you my story as succinctly as possible.

I had no symptoms whatsoever. We were on a trade mission. We did 50 or 60 meetings in three countries in 12 days. I was working 15 hours a day. We were on a 12-hour flight, on a 12-hour time difference. People couldn't believe the energy I had. I didn't feel sick at all. But the day before we left, I was shaving and I felt a big lump in my neck, didn't hurt at all. It was like a golf ball here. You can probably see it.

And I'm like, that's a very strange thing, some kind of a cyst or bump or something. So I went to go see my primary care physician when I got back. Primary care physician sent me to go get an ultrasound who then sent me to an ENT guy — ear, nose, and throat guy — who then said I want you to get some MRIs and some CAT scans, which they did. Then they found 12 more of these things in my neck and chest, and said, "We want to do a full MRI." They found 20 or 30 more in my core area and groin area. It was one test after another after another. It was like peeling an onion. "Let's send you for this test. Oh, that's bad. Let's send you for this test. That doesn't look so good. Let's send you for test. It's even worse than we thought."

But I didn't really have any symptoms. I saw one thing pop out. I had a little bit of pain in my back, which I thought was a pulled muscle. Turns out it was a tumor pressing up against my — well, it still is — pressing up against my nerves, and that was what was causing the pain. But I still feel good. I've got energy, other than that I don't have much of an appetite. I'm not tired, and I'm not in terrible pain.

Question: Do you know what stage it is and how long the treatment is?

On a stage, we're not quite sure yet. Some of the tests I did today will probably give us that answer, and by the way, I'm working with a team of doctors from Anne Arundel Medical Center and Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Medical System. I'm supposed to meet with another one tomorrow and be a second or third opinion and review of all these tests that I've been I've done. It's at least very advance stage III, if not Stage IV. And we'll find out the details of that probably this week.

As far as the treatment, they want to be, I want to be, and they want to be as aggressive as possible. And because of the fast-growing nature of this thing, we can't waste any time. We can't wait. So they want to immediately start chemotherapy treatment and they want to go as aggressively as possible. So I understand it, they try to give you as much as you can possible take without killing you. They want to kill the cancer, and keep you alive. So I believe the plan is they're going to put me in the hospital for four days, and shoot me with chemotherapy for 24 hours a day in intensive care and then start a six-round process where they zap you for a day and they let you rest up for a few weeks, and then they zap you again. All together it's about an eighteen-week process, and all the experts tell me they believe that I'll come out of that completely clear.

They also tell me it's gonna beat the hell out of me. They tell me "You're going to go through hell and back again, but you're gonna love it when you get back, and the results are gonna be good." It's not going to be an easy thing. I'm going to miss a few Board of Public Works and I'm going to miss a few meetings, but I'm still going to be constantly involved. There's probably two, three days every month, or every three weeks, where I'm not going to be feeling so well probably. And we'll see how that goes. But the rest of the time I'll be working.

Question: How will the lieutenant governor's role change?

Well the lieutenant governor, the role has changed ever since he's been elected lieutenant governor and we keep piling more and more work on him. He's got more responsibility now than any lieutenant governor in history, but I think he's ... Boyd has my back. There's no question about that. He's the most capable guy to ever serve as lieutenant governor.

He is going to step and do even more, I guess. He's going to fill in at the Board of Public Works, he's going to have to fill in for me on some other meetings, as will our entire cabinet. They're going to step up and do more things and fill in when I can't be there. If I am in a situation where they put me to sleep, which they did last week, and the lieutenant governor was ready to sign documents and make decisions if I wasn't able to.

Luckily there was no major decision during that one hour I was asleep, so [the] lieutenant governor, he didn't make any crazy decisions but he has my utmost confidence.

Question: Is it your plan to remain governor?

Absolutely. This is, it's a tough time to go through, and I'm going to miss a few meetings, but I'm going to have every capacity to make decisions. I'll be at a lot of meetings. You'll still see me at events. I'll be still working most of the time, and my residence across the street is 100 yards away.

What's been happening even with my treatment in the past 10 days, they're shuffling piles of documents back and forth like every hour. I say to the state troopers, "Are you kidding me? Another pile of homework?" So I'm making decisions and getting things done even when I'm not here. But I don't see any reason why we're not gonna... Look, some people think I'm crazy, the kind of hours I put in. I'm a workaholic. And people around here know it. We work people to death, we go seven days a week, 12 hours a day, 15 hours a day.

I would venture to say, some people have said we got more done in five months — which by the way, today is five month since I've been governor — we got quite a few things done. I think even if I were to work half time, it would be twice as much as any other governor's worked.

Question: You went through a grueling campaign less than a year ago. Did your doctors give you any indication if that contributed to any of this?

No, I mean, they really haven't given me any indication of how it happened, when it started, or what contributed to it. I mean, yeah, I didn't take a day off for a year and half, and I'm sure stress and hard work exacerbates problems, but it didn't cause the situation. This is something that doesn't seem to have been around for a long time. It just hit me in a very short period of time.

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Question: There will be some commentary about access to health care. I wonder if you might want to offer some thoughts about the value of access to health care?

Well, on the pain medications I'm on today, I'm probably not going to get into a detailed debate about the entire health care system, but access to health care is critically important. I'm lucky enough to have access to the best health care, and not everybody is.

It's an issue that, we've got our great health secretary here today, and we're making tremendous progress, and it's an issue we're still waiting to hear what happens nationwide with respect to health care and how we're going to provide it. But I would hate to be someone without access to health care, without access to insurance to get the kind of news I got last week.

Question: Are there any circumstances you see the lieutenant governor taking over for you long term?

I mean, if I died, I would say he probably is going to take over. I mean, that's hard to foresee unless I'm completely incapacitated and unconscious and unable to make decisions, then I'm sure that that would take place, but I don't foresee that happening.

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