How Julia Thorne, Ex-Wife of John Kerry, Died of Cancer

Thorne had battled transitional cell carcinoma

Julia Thorne
Julia Thorne.

Julia Thorne, author and ex-wife of John Kerry, former U.S. senator and secretary of state, died from complications of cancer on April 27, 2006. She was 61 and died in the home of a friend in Concord, Mass. Thorne had lived with transitional cell carcinoma, a type of cancer that affects the urinary system, since November 2003. Her diagnosis coincided with Kerry's failed presidential bid and garnered attention for transitional cell carcinoma.

What Is Transitional Cell Carcinoma?

Transitional cell carcinoma occurs when cancer cells invade the renal pelvis, according to the National Cancer Institute. The renal pelvis is at the top part of the ureter, or the tube that links the kidney to the bladder. Transitional cells sit along both the renal pelvis and the ureters. Hence, transitional cell carcinoma manifests in these cells.

Symptoms of the disease include blood in the urine and back pain. Doctors usually diagnose the disease after ordering tests that examine the kidneys and the abdomen. Improper use of some pain medications may increase one's risk of developing this form of cancer. Moreover, a number of factors affect a patient's chance of recovery and options for treatment.

Thorne's Depression and Writing Career 

Before cancer struck Thorne, she battled depression throughout much of the 1980s. She started the nonprofit foundation the Depression Initiative to raise awareness about the condition and shared her struggles with depression in a 1993 book she coauthored, "You Are Not Alone: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey through Depression." She followed that book up with the 1996 title "A Change of Heart: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey through Divorce." 

Personal Life and Survivors

Thorne was born into a political family on Sept. 16, 1944, in New York City. Her father served as a diplomat in Italy, and she spent much of her youth in the mediterranean nation as a result. Her ancestors include Elias Boudinot IV, president of the Continental Congress, and William Bradford, attorney general under George Washington.

Thorne met John Kerry in 1963 through her twin brother. Kerry and her brother were both Yale students at the time. Seven years later, Thorne and Kerry married. The marriage lasted 18 years and produced two daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa. Despite her family background and lineage, Thorne reportedly never took to being a politician's wife.

Thorne and Kerry reportedly remained on good terms following their divorce. Both remarried. Kerry wed philanthropist Teresa Heinz in 1995, and Thorne wed Richard J. Charlesworth in 1997.

In addition to her husband, two daughters and brother, Thorne was survived by another brother. A memorial service for her took place in fall 2006.

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