updated 12/1/2003 11:46:34 PM ET 2003-12-02T04:46:34

Linda Tripp said Monday she will marry her childhood sweetheart in the spring.

THE PENTAGON employee who went public with Monica Lewinsky’s secrets — and helped set in motion the scandal and impeachment trial over President Clinton’s relationship with the White House intern — had disclosed recently that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She described her first reaction to that news as “sheer terror.”

Billed as her first interview since being diagnosed with breast cancer and settling her lawsuit against the Defense Department, Tripp said on CNN’s “Larry King Live” that she had a lumpectomy and underwent chemotherapy. She said her hair fell out, nails fell off her feet and hands and she had immeasurable muscle and bone pain, making it difficult to walk.

‘QUEEN OF DENIAL’

“I was the queen of denial,” Tripp, 52, said. “I took care of my children, and they had all their checkups. But in terms of doing what most women should do, missed mammograms and self-exam, I wasn’t doing it.”

She doesn’t live in daily fear, she said. “I should probably, but no. I think what it is, you live with a sense of be so thankful for today, because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

Tripp, who is divorced, and fiance Dieter Rousch met when they were 10 years old in 1961.

A beaming Tripp said Rousch, an architect, had stayed in touch with Tripp’s family over the years. He had lived next to her grandmother in Germany. They saw each other in summers and saved each other’s letters over the years.

They reunited three years ago in Germany. He has since moved to Middleburg, Va., where he owns a Christmas shop.

Tripp called her lawsuit settlement with the Pentagon in November a “moral victory.”

“It was essentially a restitution,” she said, noting high legal bills. “But more than that, they conceded liability.”

Tripp will get more than $595,000 because a Pentagon official released confidential personal information about her to The New Yorker magazine.

Based on information supplied by Pentagon officials in 1998, The New Yorker reported Tripp did not list an arrest on her security application for her job at the Defense Department. She had been charged with larceny as a teenager.

TAPED CONVERSATIONS

Tripp, who secretly taped Lewinsky’s conversations about her relationship with Clinton, sued the Defense Department two years ago, alleging violations of the Privacy Act. She had worked for the department as a public affairs specialist.

The Privacy Act prohibits the government from releasing unauthorized personal information about individual Americans to non-federal organizations.

As part of her settlement, Tripp gets a one-time payment of $595,000, a retroactive promotion and retroactive pay at a higher salary level for 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Tripp now is executive director of the Integrity and Accountability in Government Foundation, designed to help whistle-blowers.

“I had nowhere to go,” she recalled. “I had evidence of corruption and abuse in office that was nothing — you know, the public thinks it was about Lewinsky. That was sort of like getting Al Capone on tax evasion. There was so much that I had witnessed and I had nowhere to go.”

Tripp lost her job at the Pentagon in January 2001 after she refused to resign like other political appointees on the last day of Clinton’s term.

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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