For the first time since she joined the court 25 years ago, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is missing oral arguments as she recovers from her recent cancer surgery. The Supreme Court is meeting for its first day of oral arguments of 2019 today, but the 85-year-old judge won’t be there to hear them after having two cancerous nodules removed from her lung, according to CNN.
Ginsburg underwent surgery late December to remove malignant lumps found in her lung after a fall that fractured several of her ribs. Per Inquisitr, experts say that it may, in fact, have been the fall that saved the justice’s life because doctors may not have recognized the cancer at this early stage if not for the fall.
As it is, it appears that doctors caught the disease in time for successful treatment.
“The implication would be that this is localized to the lung, and therefore it may very well be stage one,” said American Lung Association CMO Albert Rizzo. “That tends to imply it’s a localized disease, and it’s just a matter of recovering from the surgery.”
The surgery to remove the nodules seems to have gone well and testing indicates it is unlikely the cancer has spread to other parts of the justice’s body, according to Ginsburg’s thoracic surgeon Dr. Valerie W. Rusch. The post-surgery testing shows that surgeons were able to remove all of the disease.
“[T]here was no evidence of any remaining disease,” she said. “Scans performed before surgery indicated no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body.”
This isn’t the first time Ginsburg has had a stroke of luck when it comes to cancer. In 1999, doctors successfully treated the justice for colon cancer. Ten years later, she was at a routine follow-up scan to monitor any indication of the cancer’s return when doctors spotted a small tumor in her pancreas, per the Plain Dealer.
Most people who have pancreatic cancer don’t spot it early enough to treat it with any real rate of success. On top of that, most cases of pancreatic cancer are incredibly aggressive. The result is that fewer than 5 percent of patients survive five years with the disease.
Ginsburg’s case was spotted early enough that she was treated successfully.
Even throughout both previous cancer treatments and the fall that cracked her ribs in November, she has never before missed arguments.
Ginsburg isn’t completely out of the process, however. The court’s public information officer Kathy Arberg said that she will still be able to vote on the cases after reviewing a written transcript of the cases.