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Cancer slows, but it can't stop Pinellas County official

The flood of love, support and prayers from colleagues and the public has humbled John Morroni as he confronts months of chemotherapy.

For the 53-year-old Pinellas County Commissioner, life has delivered sudden and sharp lessons.

"You can't take today for granted," says Morroni. "Not that you should live in fear, but at the same time, appreciate a good day in your life. Because it can change on a dime, like mine."

Morroni agreed to speak to the St. Petersburg Times this week about his recent cancer diagnosis out of a sense of obligation to those who voted for him. He freely addressed questions about his fitness to stay in office.

"I look okay, other than thinner and probably a little weaker," Morroni said. "But I've got my act together. As long as I've got my act together, I ain't going anywhere."

Morroni, the District 6 commissioner since 2000, felt unwell a month ago and wasn't enjoying eating. On the morning of Friday, Sept. 26, he felt a lump in his abdomen and resolved to visit the doctor the following Monday.

But the discomfort became intense and he rushed to the emergency room Friday night. After extensive tests, he learned he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The cancer, Morroni said, has not spread and isn't in his bone marrow.

Doctors have told him there's a strong chance he will fully recover, but just how difficult a battle Morroni faces won't be known until further along in his six-month chemotherapy regimen.

He had his first treatment Oct. 13 and has a second set for Monday. He expects to be fatigued the week following a treatment and to get steadily stronger as his next appointment nears.

So far, he has made it through half of a marathon County Commission meeting Oct. 21 and most of a board workshop Tuesday.

Morroni said he expects ups and downs, but his doctor has urged him to keep active, so he'll be pushing to work as much as possible. He'll have to prioritize, though, and plans to make it job one to be at meetings and workshops, which are held Tuesdays.

It's a change for such a garrulous politician.

"To go anywhere and work the crowd and shake hands and be the guy I was four weeks ago," he said, "I can't do that right now."

Cancer slows, but it can't stop Pinellas County official 10/29/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 31, 2008 6:19pm]
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