Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who earned global notoriety for smoking crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor” while in office, will undergo chemotherapy to fight a malignant tumor, his doctor said Wednesday.
The diagnosis follows a week of hospitalization and tests which forced the colorful mayor to abandon his re-election campaign and to focus on his failing health.
The 45-year-old Ford only returned to work in June after two months in rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, including the use of crack cocaine.
He was admitted last week to hospital with abdominal pains and a battery of tests showed Ford has malignant liposarcoma, doctor Zane Cohen told a press conference.
Cohen said the rare type of cancer, which arises in soft tissues including fat, blood vessels, nerves and muscles, is “fairly aggressive.”
“But we are treating this very aggressively in order to eradicate the tumor,” he said. “And we are optimistic about this tumor.”
Cohen described an anxious week for Ford after a first biopsy was inconclusive. “Most of the cells actually were dead, and that is not unexpected in a relatively large mass because as it grows it outstrips its own blood supply, and some of the cells die,” he explained.
“That, I’m pretty sure, is what’s giving him his pain,” he said.
A second biopsy on Monday, the doctor said, lead to a “more conclusive diagnosis,” as well as a multidisciplinary team discussion of treatment options.
Over the coming months, Ford will undergo a cycle of three days of chemotherapy at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto to try to shrink the “relatively large mass,” which now measures 12 by 12 centimeters (five by five inches), followed by 18 days of rest, Cohen said.
Doctors will then reassess the cancer. Further chemotherapy, radiation or surgery may be required, he warned.
Liposarcoma is a rare cancer, accounting for only one percent of all cancers. Treated with radiation and surgery it rarely recurs, or metastasizes, but survival rates vary widely.
The mayor’s drug abuse was first revealed last year when an alleged drug dealer tried to sell a video of him smoking crack to the media.
At first, Ford denied using the illegal drug, but later acknowledged he had smoked crack while in a “drunken stupor.” Since then, he has been filmed numerous times in public behaving erratically and once smoking crack with his sister, just prior to his seeking help.
Toronto’s city council stripped him of most of his mayoral powers last November over his misconduct, and calls for his resignation have dogged him.
Yet his support has remained relatively high as he campaigned on a give-me-another-chance platform over the summer.
After the mayor abandoned his re-election bid, his brother Doug Ford, who is also a city councillor, stepped in to fill his shoes in the race to lead Canada’s largest metropolis.