PHILADELPHIA – Sen. Arlen Specter (search) said Friday he had suffered from headaches and fatigue since November but was feeling optimistic as he prepared to begin chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease.
"I'm going to lose my hair. There's no doubt about that," he told reporters before heading to the hospital. "I'm now considering the alternatives of ... either a new sex symbol or wearing baseball caps."
Specter, 75, announced Wednesday that he has Hodgkin's, a cancer of the lymph system. He said he began having headaches, fatigue and lethargy in late November, but doesn't believe he was ill before Election Day (search).
Doctors say he stands an excellent chance of being cured, and he has remained active, playing squash most days.
He is expected to receive chemotherapy every two weeks for as long as eight months at the Abramson Cancer Center (search) at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The diagnosis came during a challenging period for Specter. The moderate, fifth-term senator narrowly beat back a primary challenge last year from conservative former Rep. Patrick J. Toomey, then overcame opposition from conservative Republicans to his appointment as chairman of the Judiciary Committee earlier this year.
Specter said he was determined not to let his illness and treatment interfere with his role as chairman, which has promised to use to be a strong advocate for President Bush's federal appellate court nominees, who were blocked by Democratic filibusters last year. Hearings on those nominations are expected to open March 1.
Specter had a benign brain tumor removed in 1993 and underwent double-bypass surgery in 1998.