Maggie Daley Tripled Average Survival Cancer Rate

Maggie Daley

Former Chicago politician Maggie Daley more than tripled the average survival rate for someone with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis.

Her husband called her a fighter. Her doctor called her a medical miracle. She felt that she was part of a group ready to face what life threw at them.

“I have a lot of challenges ahead,” Mrs. Daley said in May, at an event celebrating her husband’s tenure as mayor. “But anybody who has cancer has the same experience. We’re a mighty group. I’m not alone. I’m one of many.”

Maggie was one of many fighting the breast cancer in January 2008. The National Cancer Institute estimated that about 2.6 million women in the U.S. with a history of breast cancer were alive. In 2011, about 162,000 U.S. women were expected to be living with metastatic breast cancer, where the cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes, according to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.

The average survival rate of metastatic breast cancer is two to three years. This 68-year-old lived with the disease for nine years.

“We wish it could be longer, though we have many patients beyond the two- to three-year mark,” said Dr. William Gradishar, director of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care. “Certainly she had a disease that was sensitive to a variety of different therapies. She had perseverance — that was an element that can’t be underestimated. Mixed in there was some component of things we don’t understand. The end result was she had a long survival.”

Beating the odds wasn’t easy. After her June 2002 diagnosis, she endured repeated hospitalizations, multiple surgeries and rounds of radiation treatment, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biological therapy.

Dr. Steven Rosen, a Northwestern oncologist who treated the First Lady of Chicago for the duration of her illness, said on Thursday despite the difficult treatment, she never gave up.

“She was heroic,” he said. “She was just a very sweet, lovable woman of great substance.” He said her survival was a medical miracle, “a combination of who she was and modern medicine.”