Sen. Ted Kennedy Dies of Brain Cancer

Kennedy, 77, Was Diagnosed With Brain Cancer in May 2008

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 26, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 26, 2009 -- Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy died late last night at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., of brain cancer at age 77.

Kennedy had a malignant glioma, a type of brain cancer. A glioma is a brain tumor that begins in glial cells, which are cells that surround and support nerve cells.

In a statement posted on Kennedy's senate web site, the Kennedy family says, "We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness, and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him."

Kennedy Remembered

Condolences and remembrances have been posted by officials from both sides of the political aisle.

In a statement posted on the White House's web site, President Barack Obama says, "Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy."

"For five decades, virtually every piece of major legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts," Obama says.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican Senator from Utah, issued a statement saying that America had "lost a great elder statesman ... and I lost a treasured friend." Hatch called Kennedy "larger than life" and said that "many had come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy's name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed in its chamber."

Nancy Reagan, widow of former President Ronald Reagan, issued a statement saying she was "terribly saddened" to hear of Kennedy's death. "Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family. But Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another. In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and dear friend. I will miss him."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican Senator of California and husband of Kennedy's niece, Maria Shriver, is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that he had "personally benefited and grown from his experience and advice, and I know countless others have as well. Teddy taught us all that public service isn't a hobby or even an occupation, but a way of life and his legacy will live on."

Kennedy's Brain Cancer

Kennedy's doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital announced his brain cancer diagnosis on May 20, 2008.

Kennedy left Massachusetts General Hospital for his home on Cape Cod, Mass., on May 21, 2008.

In June 2008, Kennedy underwent successful brain surgery at Duke University Medical Center and returned home to Massachusetts, where he got chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Last Cause: Health Care Reform

Kennedy, a U.S. senator since 1962, returned to the Senate on July 9, 2008, for a vote on Medicare. "I wanted to be here," Kennedy said in a statement. "I wasn't going to take the chance that my vote could make a difference."

In 2009, Kennedy pressed for health care reform while continuing his brain cancer treatment. In June 2009, Kennedy, who served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, released the "Affordable Health Choices Act."

Kennedy was honored and gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August 2008. In that speech, he said "the torch will be passed to a new generation of Americans" in the 2008 presidential election. "The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on."