By Colleen Quinn
State House News Service
---- — BOSTON — State Rep. Bradford Hill, the Republican from Ipswich who also represents several local towns in Massachusetts’ House of Representatives, is recovering at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston after undergoing a bone marrow transplant Wednesday to treat cancer.
Hill, who was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2008, has been extremely private about his cancer, with only a handful of his colleagues and constituents aware. He decided to make his battle with the disease public yesterday because he will be recovering at home for almost two months.
Hill, who is 46 and serving his eighth term in the House, will spend the next 17 days in the hospital, then nearly two months at home. Because his immune system is weakened, he has to limit his exposure to the public, he said.
Since first diagnosed in 2008, Hill lived with the disease with few complications, but this past spring, “something spiked” that drew the concern of doctors at Dana Farber, he told the News Service yesterday morning. He is being cared for by doctors from the Dana Farber/Brigham Women’s Cancer Center.
“Clearly, I’ve had this for five years, and something popped, and we wanted to address it while I’m young and I’m able to address it health-wise,” he said in a telephone interview from the hospital.
Multiple myeloma is cancer that affects certain white blood cells, called plasma cells. It represents about 1 percent of all cancers in the U.S., and about 22,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year, according to a website for Massachusetts General Hospital. It is more common in men and occurs rarely under the age of 35.
In August, Hill began chemotherapy treatments, receiving treatment for two successive weeks, then with a week off in between. The chemotherapy was to prepare him for the bone marrow transplant, a trial procedure that used his own marrow.
Hill said his prognosis looks very good.
“It is a trial which has been very successful, not only at Dana Farber, but across the country,” he said.
“I’ve been told this procedure has worked very well. Everybody involved has been very optimistic about it,” he added.
Since the transplant, Hill said he feels tired and unable to rest because of the side effects, including nausea.
As of last week, he was still coming into the Statehouse daily, voting on legislation from his office. He said he is upset he will be missing Veterans Day events in his district next week, “which I have not missed in my whole time being a rep.”
While recovering at home, Hill said he hopes to come into his Statehouse office to vote. “It is bad enough to miss two weeks, but certainly I don’t want to miss a month,” he said.
Hill was first elected to the House of Representatives in November of 1998. He represents the 4th Essex District, which — in addition to Ipswich — includes Topsfield, Hamilton, Rowley, Wenham and Manchester. He lives in Ipswich with his wife, Amy, and his two teenage children, a son and daughter.
House Minority Leader Bradley Jones said he and other Republicans have talked to Hill every day since he went into the hospital on Sunday, keeping him informed and checking on how he feels.
“Any help he needs, we are there, whether it is something with the family or something with his district,” Jones said.
Jones and Hill have been friends since the early 1990s. In January, Jones reappointed Hill as the minority whip.
“I’m sorry to see he has to go through this, but I also know he is committed to going through it and committed to doing what he has to do to get better,” Jones said.
Rep. Viriato deMacedo, R-Plymouth, who was elected to the House the same year as Hill, said “watching a friend go through this type of procedure makes you realize what’s important in life.” He described him as a “trooper” and said Hill talks to him about his concerns about missing votes.
“He has to do what he has to do, and we all understand that,” deMacedo said. “We know that he is totally engaged, even from his hospital bed.”
Hours after the bone marrow transplant, deMacedo said Hill was texting him about the debate on the welfare reform bill passed in the House Wednesday.
Jones described Hill as the “epitome of someone who is dedicated to his district.”