NY state senator’s death attributed to undiagnosed leukemia

NEW YORK — State Sen. Jose Peralta’s unexpected death was caused by a rare and aggressive form of leukemia, medical examiners said Tuesday.

The finding came nearly two months after a death that stunned the statehouse and Peralta’s family. Peralta, a Democrat and the first Dominican-American elected to New York’s Senate, was 47.

He had no idea that he had acute promyelocytic leukemia, family spokesman Chris Sosa said Tuesday.

The disease hadn’t been detected during Peralta’s regular physical in June, and it wasn’t suspected when he went to a doctor a day or so before his Nov. 21 death, Sosa said.

“It’s very startling, and I think it’s a good reminder to anyone who’s feeling ill” to seek medical attention, Sosa said.

He said the senator had been feeling cold-like symptoms and pressure behind his ears for a week or so, but his condition didn’t raise alarms at first.

Peralta’s widow, Evelyn, told reporters after his death that he developed a fever Nov. 20, then became disoriented, had trouble breathing and was taken to a hospital the next day. He died that night.

Acute promyelocytic leukemia is a fast-progressing, uncommon type of bone and blood marrow cancer. Symptoms can include an increased risk of bleeding and blood clots, tiredness, pain in affected areas and loss of appetite, according to the National Institutes of Health. About 1,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year. There are various treatments.

Peralta was nearing the end of nearly two decades in elected office after losing a primary in September.

Elected to represent parts of Queens in the New York Assembly in 2002, he first won his Senate seat in 2010. He was a member of a splinter group of Democratic senators who, for a time, formed a coalition with Republicans to control the chamber.

He was known for proposals promoting gun safety and immigrants’ rights, among other issues.

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