Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 17 January 2014 00:00
Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) announced on Wednesday, Jan. 8 that she would not seek re-election this year. The former nurse has been battling lung cancer since last year.
“It just hits you,” she said. “There’s an expression called “chemo-brain,” which makes you kind of forgetful and tired. I said jokingly ‘That’s great. I can see myself sitting next to my chairman and fall asleep by accident.”
The Mineola resident said that cancer was not the reason she decided to not seek re-election. Ending her run in Congress entered the picture after the December 2012 Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Conn.
Sandy Hook, two decades after the tragedy she and her family faced when Colin Ferguson killed six (including her husband, Dennis) and wounded her son Kevin on the Long Island Rail Road, cut her to the core.
“That hit right at the sole of my heart,” she said. At the same time, McCarthy saw others galvanized by their tragedy as she had been by hers, and taking up her cause.
“A lot of the victims got involved and became voices of reducing gun violence,” she noted. “Other voices are speaking up now. We need another face up there.”
McCarthy, 70, grew up in Mineola. A nurse and homemaker at the time of the LIRR shooting, she did not see herself fighting her way on to Capitol Hill. Now, however, she can’t imagine any other path.
“I loved nursing, but one of the things that I found working in Congress is that it’s just like nursing,” she said. “It’s taking care of people.”
In a phone interview with Anton Newspapers, McCarthy noted that she’ll be back in Congress in a couple of weeks. She finished her final round of chemotherapy and radiation last September at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
“I actually felt worse [at the end of chemo than] during the whole treatment. I was getting antsy wanting to get back to work,” she said. “The doctors would always say ‘let’s give it another week.’ The next week would go just into another week.”
While McCarthy loves her job, the typical 70-hour workweek that most congresspeople tackle may be too much, she said.
“I thought about this for quite a long time,” she said. “It was getting harder. And when I go back, I know I’m not going to have the energy I had before.”
However, McCarthy still plans on being active after her run as congresswoman ends. With her cancer battle, the former nurse says she may tackle health issues in the community.
“I couldn’t imagine not being active,” she said. “I think that’s why a lot of politicians hang on so long: because they don’t know what else to do. But I would say to those ones, ‘there is a life out there.’”