DEATH OF A FIRST LADY: JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS

Review by Yeong Sek Yee & Khadijah Shaari

Jacqueline Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, just like the late Senator Hubert Humphrey, also died a painful death in May 1994. Jacqueline Kennedy was the wife of the late President John Kennedy, the 35th President of the USA from January 1961 until he was assassinated in November 1963. Jacqueline subsequently married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis in 1968 and was later known as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Mrs. Onassis was healthy until early December1993, when she noticed a swelling in her right groin. A doctor diagnosed a swollen lymph node, and suspecting an infection, prescribed antibiotics. The swelling diminished but did not completely disappear.  While on a boat cruise in the Caribbean over the Christmas holidays in 1993, Mrs. Onassis developed a cough and swollen lymph nodes in her neck and pain in her abdomen.

Subsequently another doctor found enlarged lymph nodes in her neck and in her armpit. A  CAT scan, showed that there were swollen lymph nodes in her chest and in an area deep in the abdomen, the retroperitoneal area.A biopsy of one of the neck nodes showed that Mrs. Onassis had non-Hodgkin’s  lymphoma (NHL).

In early January1994, Mrs. Onassis began receiving the first of four standard courses of chemotherapy for the lymphoma. The therapy included steroid drugs, and the initial treatment led to an apparent remission. But in mid-March 1994, she developed weakness, became confused and  had  pains in her legs. A neurological examination indicated that the cerebellum portion of her brain had been affected. Later, an M.R.I. showed that the lymphoma had disappeared from her neck, chest and abdomen but that it had spread to the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

After the cancer was found  in her brain, Mrs. Onassis received radiation therapy there and to her lower spinal cord for about a month. The treatment relieved her weakness, but she continued to experience pain in her neck, for which she was given pain medications. During this time she received her care at home and as a hospital out-patient.

On April 14, Mrs. Onassis was admitted to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center after she developed a perforated ulcer in her stomach, a complication of the steroid therapy. Surgeons sewed up the hole in the stomach that day.

However the cancer in her spinal cord and brain continued to worsen. Although a tube was placed in her brain to deliver an anti-cancer drug, a sophisticated but now standard form of therapy for this condition, the lymphoma in her brain did not respond to any therapy. During this period, she lost weight, her speech slowed; she was less alert and had difficulty walking.

A subsequent CAT scan showed that the lymphoma was in her liver in huge amounts.Doctors said there was nothing else medicine could offer. After consultation with her family and in keeping with the intent of her living will, Mrs. Onassis asked to go home from the hospital.

The above was reported in the New York Times of May 20 1994 (read article at following link   http://www.nytimes.com/1994/05/20/us/death-of-a-first-lady-no-more-could-be-done-mrs-onassis-was-told.html).

Harvey Diamond, in his best seller FIT FOR LIFE, A NEW BEGINNING, was more explicit in his description of Mrs. Onassis’s  battle with lymphoma…the following are excerpts from the book:

…..she was bombarded with drugs. Lots of powerful, virulent, energy-sapping, life-diminishing drugs. The New York Times stated that she “initially responded to therapy, but it (cancer) came back in her brain and spread through her body”

For the unrelenting pain in her neck, Mrs. Onassis received more drugs.  For the acute pneumonia she developed in her weakened state, she received more drugs.  Steroids were part of the mixture in her chemotherapy, which caused a perforated ulcer in her stomach.  In the middle of her ordeal, she had to be operated on to sew up the hole in her stomach.  She went from bad to worse, and as a final assault on her body, she was subjected to even more radiation and chemotherapy, only this time it was shot directly into her brain.  The cancer spread to her spinal cord, her liver, and throughout her body.  She became weak and disoriented, lost weight, developed shaking chills, her speech slowed, and she had difficulty walking.

A POINT TO PONDER

Mrs. Onassis was diagnosed with NHL in January 1994 and she passed away on May 19 1994…just barely 5 months after diagnosis/treatments. Why did she have to die such a painful death? Did the scientifically tested, proven and evidence-based cancer treatments caused the cancer to spread? Or was the NHL too aggressive?

We leave it to you to be the judge.

Advertisements