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Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she's working through the pain one week after pancreatic cancer surgery

Matthew McNulty

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may have just been treated for pancreatic cancer, but the Supreme Court judge says she is literally working through the pain.

The 86-year-old is already back to work and on a busy public appearance schedule, in spite of the post-surgery pain.

“How am I feeling? This audience can see,” she said at a book festival sponsored by the Library of Congress on Saturday. “That I am alive. And I am on my way to being very well.”

Her response was greeted with a passionate ovation from the 4,000 in attendance to hear her speak, just one week removed from having a malignant tumor removed from her pancreas.

Ginsburg had to be helped up the stairs to reach the stage, but once she got there, she revealed that her work as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a position former President Bill Clinton appointed her to back in 1993, is helping to distract her from the pain.

“I love my job,” she told the audience. “It has kept me going through four cancer bouts. Instead of concentrating on my aches and pains, I just know that I have to read a set of briefs and go over a draft opinion. Somehow, I have to surmount whatever is going on in my body and concentrate on the court’s work.”

Democrats nationwide have held their collective breath following Justice Ginsburg’s most recent health scare, but her appearance on Saturday, combined with a recent busy schedule, has given them hope that she will likely outlive President Donald Trump’s presidency so a Democrat can potentially appoint her successor.

This past Monday, she was in Buffalo to receive an honorary degree, where the extraordinary demand for tickets forced a last-minute venue change to a nearby sports arena with a capacity of nearly 18,000.

And on Tuesday, Justice Ginsburg will be in North Little Rock, Arkansas for a public appearance on Tuesday, where another 16,000 people await her arrival, according to NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg.

Then, she’s off to Raleigh, Chicago, with two appearances in New York and then back to Washington throughout the next three weeks.

Last week’s surgery marks Ginsburg’s fourth separate cancer treatment over the years, having two malignant nodules removed from her left lung in December, treatment for early-stage pancreatic cancer back in 2009, and then surgery for colon cancer in 1999.

However, her most recent procedure comes with extremely long recovery times and a high rate of complications, according Dr. Daniel Labow, the chairman of surgical oncology at Mount Sinai Health System.

“It’s a surgery we do often, but you’re in the hospital for a week, and you’d not be 100 percent yourself for six to eight weeks, and maybe three months,” Dr. Labow said.

Ginsburg’s recent busy schedule and workload is par for the course for the Brooklyn-native, who has never missed an argument in her 25-year career as a Supreme Court Justice, barring a two-week period in January following her lung surgery a month prior.

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