Ginsburg: Work on court 'saved me' during cancer treatment

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Photo: AP/Cliff Owen
Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.

Updated: September 04, 2019 09:04 AM

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Tuesday night that her work on the bench saved her during her cancer treatments, as the judge was given a rock-star reception in the home state of the president who nominated her to the nation's highest court.

Ginsburg told a packed arena that she was "feeling very good tonight," following the 86-year-old's disclosure last month that she had completed three weeks of outpatient radiation therapy for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas and is now disease-free. It was the fourth time over the past two decades that Ginsburg, the leader of the court's liberal wing, has been treated for cancer. She had colorectal cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009 and lung cancer surgery in December.


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"I think my work is what saved me because instead of dwelling on my physical discomforts if I have an opinion to write or a brief to read, I know I've just got to get it done so I have to get over it," she said during a one-hour interview on stage with NPR Reporter Nina Totenberg at Verizon Arena. About 13,000 attended the event, which was hosted by the Clinton Foundation and the University of Arkansas' Clinton School of Public Service, and more had been on a waiting list to attend.

The lecture had been moved to the arena to accommodate the crowd and was sandwiched between a concert by "Weird Al" Yankovic over the weekend and KISS on Thursday.

Former President Bill Clinton praised Ginsburg as he introduced her Tuesday night.

"I liked her and believed in her. I just knew she was the right person for the court," Clinton said. "But I have to say over the past 26 years she has far exceeded my expectations."

Clinton added he never expected Ginsburg to achieve the pop culture status she has, including a movie and a documentary released about her last year and products ranging from t-shirts to coffee mugs featuring her. Verizon Arena erupted into cheers as footage of Ginsburg's swearing-in was shown and the audience chanted "RBG" as she took the stage.

Tuesday's speech was the latest in a handful of public appearances Ginsburg has made since her radiation treatment was disclosed last month. Ginsburg's health has been watched closely by both conservatives and liberals since it's believed the court would shift to the right if President Donald Trump could nominate someone to replace her. Clinton alluded to that concern.

"All of us hope that she will stay on the court forever," Clinton said.

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