In June 1893, during the financial panic on the heels of the Gilded Age, President Cleveland was diagnosed with verrucous carcinoma of the hard palate. To keep his condition quiet, he underwent surgery on a private yacht in what was called the secret voyage aboard Oneida. After recuperating during July, he underwent a second operation.
Explore This IssueDecember 2008
According to Dr. Close, the rapid and correct treatment of President Cleveland accounted for his survival and ability to stand before Congress in August of that year.
We were very fortunate as a country that Cleveland had something that was absolutely treatable and curable, said Dr. Close, adding that despite the fact that the head and neck surgeons at that time could not have known that this cancer was curable back then, they treated the tumor correctly and saved the president’s life.
For Dr. Close, the fact that President Cleveland chose to keep his condition private, was both his obvious right and, as the historians suggest, a responsibility in light of the financial crisis facing the nation. My personal opinion is that the leader of the US, just as you and I, should be able to keep certain things private if we are absolutely positive that they don’t influence our performance daily or ability to produce whatever we do, he said.
Unlike Dr. Ruben, Dr. Close does not think there is a different burden on a candidate running for office, versus a sitting president, to divulge medical information to the public. I think that the physician and candidate should be the ones to make the decision about whether it’s appropriate or not for him to take the leadership of the US, he said.
One sitting president in recent history who did not keep his medical conditions private was Ronald Reagan, and, in doing so, actually spurred the public to greater awareness of and willingness to treat a condition common to aging-hearing loss.
In 1983, when Ronald Reagan was gearing up to run for the second term of his presidency, he sought help for hearing loss he was experiencing. John W. House, MD, an otolaryngologist, was called in for a consultation and recommended a hearing aid.
Despite being concerned that his age was a factor in the upcoming race, Ronald Reagan immediately agreed to wearing a hearing aid, upon Dr. House’s recommendation.
He [Reagan] was not concerned about people’s reactions, said Dr. House, who currently practices at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles. Once the press saw it two weeks later, hearing aid sales zoomed. This was a great positive benefit.