Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Sunday, February 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 30° Cloudy
News >  Pacific NW

Justice Fairhurst battling lung cancer with radiation

Mary Fairhurst is undergoing treatment for lung cancer. (File)
Mary Fairhurst is undergoing treatment for lung cancer. (File)

OLYMPIA – Washington state Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst is being treated for lung cancer.

She has been going to a radiation clinic every day for the past seven weeks and uses the time “to meditate and just be calm and imagine myself being healed,” she told KING-TV.

Fairhurst previously underwent treatment for colon cancer but was diagnosed with terminal cancer in her lung early this year. Her last radiation session is scheduled for early November.

She says she hasn’t missed a day of work. She attends the radiation sessions early, then swaps her patient’s gown for the black robe of a justice.

Her friends have been wearing purple bands that say “Believe in Miracles.”

“We’re all going to die someday, and I have the blessing of appreciating every single day,” she said.

Fairhurst, a graduate of Gonzaga Law School, spent 16 years working in the attorney general’s office before she won her seat on the high court in 2002. Her election was historic, marking the first time the state Supreme Court featured more women than men. Her term expires in 2014, and she’s planning to run for re-election.

She has mentioned her diagnosis in talks at some organizations, including the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, and in the past six weeks she’s been recognized six times by schools and professional groups such as the state bar association.

She says she understands people are already trying to peg her judicial legacy: She backed Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna’s authority to challenge health care reform, and she has often sided with police and prosecutors. Yet Fairhurst also staked out liberal positions on some social issues. She dissented from an opinion against gay marriage, calling it “blatant discrimination.”

“I think my legacy really is that I love the law, and I loved and recognized how it affected everyone and I really cared about the people,” she said. “It’s the people that make up the government. We are the government. And we have a responsibility to make government as good as it can be.

“If I were to die, I would just know that I’d done what I was supposed to do,” she said.

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter

There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email

You have been successfully subscribed!