Tag Archives: cancer

Cold turkey: It’s the way to quit

I can’t believe I almost forgot about this landmark anniversary.

It was 40 years ago this past Sunday that I changed my life for the better and perhaps even lengthened it.

I quit smoking. Cold turkey, man! I didn’t need no prescription drug to wean me of the weeds. I didn’t need any counseling sessions, other than with my wife.

I started smoking at about the age of 15. By the time I reached age 30, I had become a two-pack-a-day man. The cigarettes have taken a toll on my health. I developed a nagging “smoker’s cough.” But, what the heck, a cigarette would make it go away … or so I deluded myself.

Then on the Second of February, 1980 I lit up a smoke. I took a drag. I choked on it.

My next thought at that moment was this, and I kid you not: What the hell am I doing here?

I snuffed that cigarette out. I tossed it into the garbage. Then I reached into my pocket for the pack of cigarettes waiting to be lit, crumpled it up and threw it, too, into the trash.

I was done. Finished. I haven’t put a lit cig to my mouth since. I have become somewhat militant about smoking as I have aged over the years. So has my wife. My total aversion to smoking has caused some tension, truth be told, among those with whom I have socialized. Here’s my favorite example of what happened.

More than 10 years ago, I was touring Israel with four of my best friends. We attended a party in the southern part of the country. There was plenty of food and beverage. At the end of the meal, our hosts lit up a hookah, which we used to refer to in the old days as a “water pipe” or “bong.” I was asked if I wanted to partake. I said “no.” They kept insisting. I kept saying “no” with even more vigor than the previous time. This back/forth went on far longer than I wished.

At the end of it, I am certain I offended my hosts by not enjoying the hookah vapors. What I could not explain to them was that smoking from that device terrified me. I never was a casual or “social” smoker. I was addicted to nicotine. The addiction frightened me to never wanting to be tempted again beyond my strength.

And so it has gone. I read not long after I quit smoking that one’s lungs can restore themselves over time. I surely trust that has happened to me.

What’s more, I long ago quit calling myself a “former smoker.” I am a non-smoker … and proud of how I became one.

Cure for AIDS and childhood cancer on tap?

Donald Trump went way overboard in handing out grand promises during a political rally this week in Cincinnati.

First, he said he intends to find a cure for HIV/AIDS “very soon.” How soon? That remains to be seen and perhaps how the president defines the term “very soon.”

Second, he announced his intention to cure childhood cancer.

There you go. Two deadly diseases are headed for extinction on this president’s watch. Naturally, the crowd cheered. Hey, who can blame them? I mean, it was their guy making the dubious boasts, although the subject of the prediction certainly is worth cheering, no matter how serious one should take the claim being made by the miracle worker in chief.

What will happen, though, if we don’t find a cure for HIV/AIDS or childhood cancer by the time Trump leaves office? I am presuming he means in January 2025, at the end of his second term. Oh, the humanity, if he gets re-elected next year.

I suppose he’ll blame Democrats in Congress for however short he might fall in that grand prediction.

I am going to hope that Trump delivers on the grand effort, although I have about as much confidence in his delivering the goods as I do on his insistence that “Mexico will pay for The Wall.”

Sen. McCain faces the final fight

The news was expected, but it remains a stunner nevertheless.

U.S. Sen. John McCain today announced he is terminating treatment to fight the aggressive brain cancer that has kept him at home for several months. He has fought the good fight, but as he noted in his statement, age (he is 81) and the cancer have taken their toll.

He doesn’t want to fight any longer.

This saddens me terribly. It should sadden all Americans who understand the sacrifice this man has made in the line of duty to the country he loves. He has spent more than 50 years serving his country: as a Naval aviator, a U.S. House member, a U.S. senator and a Republican presidential nominee.

He was shot down in 1967 over Hanoi during the height of the Vietnam War and taken prisoner. He served heroically — despite the claims of one prominent GOP politician.

Did I agree with Sen. McCain’s politics, his policy, his philosophy? No. This blog post, though, pays tribute to his service, his courage, his fortitude, guts, perseverance and dedication to country.

I know it’s no longer plausible to wish this brave warrior a full recovery. Glioblastoma is, in the words of Sen. McCain’s good friend former Vice President Joe Biden, “as bad as it gets.” However, the former VP has spoken often in the past about his friend’s courage in the face of insurmountable odds.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Politicians who cannot summon the courage to do the right thing when the chips are down need to steal a page from John McCain’s book of life’s lessons.

He is, as CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer described him this morning when the news broke, “a great American.”

May he find comfort and strength in the days ahead knowing that the nation is praying for him.

No one knows how much ‘time they have left’

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain said the following regarding his struggle against brain cancer: “Maybe I’ll have another five years, maybe with the advances in oncology they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this, my predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”

The Arizona Republican made that assessment on an audio recording relating to his new book, which is to be published later this month.

I want to offer a bit of perspective that I hope, dear reader, you take in the spirit I offer it. I offer this to give Sen. McCain more than a glimmer of hope in his valiant fight.

It is merely that no one knows “how much longer” they’ll be here.

I enjoy good health. I don’t expect to die in the next 30 minutes. No one — except those intent on purposely ending their life — should know when their time is up.

I surely want Sen. McCain to beat the disease he is battling. I want him to return to the Senate, where he has served for more than three decades. I want him to continue to speak out, to lend his voice to the issues of the day. Will I agree with him always? Oh, probably not. Indeed, I’m likely to disagree him more than agree with the senator.

I get the fatalism he is expressing in his memoir, “The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations,” but let’s seek to keep it in some semblance of perspective. It well might be that McCain believes he has been living on borrowed time as it is, given what he endured from 1967 to 1973 as a Vietnam War prisoner who suffered unbearable and unspeakable torture at the hands of his captors.

I want him to draw a bit of strength from the belief that no one can know when the end will come. No one!

Former VPOTUS offers a teachable moment for all pols

Joe Biden has this way of comforting those who are in pain.

The former vice president demonstrated that remarkable skill the other morning on a live TV show I was watching with my wife.

Vice President Biden was visiting the set of “The View,” the all-woman gabfest that features guests to talk about “hot topics” and other matters. One of the co-hosts happens to be Meghan McCain, daughter of U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who lost that presidential election to Biden’s running mate, Barack H. Obama.

Sen. McCain is fighting glioblastoma, a virulent form of brain cancer. The senator’s daughter began discussing Biden’s recent book in which he talks about the disease, which claimed his son, Beau, in 2015. Meghan started crying. She apologized to the former VP, who then swapped chairs with “View” co-host Sunny Hostin. He grasped Meghan McCain’s hands, offering her comfort as she told him how she thinks of Beau Biden daily while her father wages the fight of his life against cancer.

Biden told her to never give up hope. He urged her to follow her dad’s example of courage in the face of daunting challenge. He also sought to encourage Meghan by telling her of medical advancements that are being made in the fight to quell the disease Sen. McCain is battling.

What’s more, the vice president sought to tell Meghan McCain that her father is the politician who understands that political foes — such as Biden and McCain were during their time together in the Senate — need not be enemies. He told her his son, Beau, admired Sen. McCain’s “courage,” the type he demonstrated while being held captive during the Vietnam War.

Biden also reminded Meghan that her father was always there for those on the other side of the political divide. He spoke of his longstanding friendship with Sen. McCain.

The lesson here is obvious.

Democrats and Republicans in today’s political environment too often demonize each other. By that I mean they question their patriotism, their love of country, their motivation. Joe Biden sought to tell the daughter of one of his best Senate friends that her dad does not operate that way.

It’s a lesson I wish fervently would somehow sink in on both sides of the gaping chasm that separates the political parties operating in Washington — under the Capitol Hill dome and inside the walls of the White House.

‘Give it hell,’ Sen. McCain

I’ve opposed many of John McCain’s public policy pronouncements over the years. None of that opposition, though, has stood in the way of my admiration for him as a dedicated public servant who brought a hero’s stature to his service in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. McCain, the Arizona Republican, is now in the fight of his life.

Doctors removed a blood clot from near his eye and now have revealed that the veteran lawmaker is suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer.

His daughter Meghan calls him the “toughest person” she’s ever known. Tributes have poured in from throughout the nation, across the political chasm that divides the nation.

Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, sent their  “thoughts and prayers.” Former Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush sent their heartfelt prayers as well.

Barack Obama, with whom Sen. McCain tussled as the two men ran for the presidency in 2008 and while Obama served two terms as president, said this in a message via Twitter: “John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”

Check out the messages to Sen. McCain.

He earned his hero status the hard way by being shot down during the Vietnam War and by being held captive for more than five years by North Vietnam. He was tortured, beaten to within inches of his life, denied medical treatment for the injuries he suffered when his plane crashed into a lake in downtown Hanoi.

But he persevered. He struggled. He fought back.

As President Obama said, “Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against.”

John McCain became a national figure the moment he entered Congress and he has served the nation with honor.

We’re pulling for you, senator.

Will the VP stay with the fight once he leaves office?

Vice President Joe Biden points at President Barack Obama during the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

President Obama made a stirring choice Tuesday night.

He turned to Vice President Joe Biden and declared that he would be “in charge of mission control” while leading a concerted effort to rid the world of cancer. The vice president will be the point man to find a cure for the dreaded disease.

It was a poignant moment for one major reason: Joe Biden’s son, Beau, died this past year of brain cancer; the younger Biden’s death resonated around the world as we watched the vice president and his family grieve openly — but with dignity and grace.

So it makes sense for the president to put him in charge of such a noble effort.

However …

Barack Obama’s got just about one year left as president; Biden’s time as vice president expires at the same time.

Will this team of researchers find a cure between now and then? Probably not.

So, will the vice president remain as head of the team once the Obama administration leaves office? My hope is that whoever becomes the next president — Democrat or Republican — will ask Biden to remain on the job for as long as he is able.

Joe Biden can become a serious force of nature in the effort to raise money to conduct the research needed to find this cure. Granted, it’s not as if health institutions, think tanks, research hospitals and universities haven’t done a lot already to find a cure.

Having the vice president of the United States take the point on that effort shouldn’t end once he hands his office keys to whoever succeeds him.

President Carter has more work to do

**FILE**Former President Jimmy Carter takes a question during a conference at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Tuesday, June 7, 2005. An independent panel Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005 reversed a Pentagon recommendation that the New London submarine base in Connecticut, base be closed. One of the panel members even said a letter from Carter _ the only president to ever serve as a submariner _ pleading the panel to keep the base open was one of the reasons he voted against closure. (AP Photo/Ric Feld, File)

Count me as one American who was thinking dark thoughts when President Carter announced some months ago that his doctors had found cancer in his brain.

There was a certain sound of resignation in the former president’s voice as he told the nation of the diagnosis, while announcing he would proceed with radiation treatment.

Then came news today. It was much better news … at a time when we Americans are looking for a glimmer of hope somewhere in light of recent events in California and the still-simmering aftermath.

President Carter told his Sunday school class he is cancer-free. The cancer is gone. The treatment worked, did its job.

This is an admirable man. He spent four years in the White House and has spent the longest post-presidential period in the nation’s history doing good work around the world. He’s been building houses for poor people; he developed the Carter Center in Atlanta; he has been monitoring elections in countries that never had free and fair elections before; he’s been speaking out on issues of the day.

I was delighted to hear this good news about the former president’s  health.

Yes, he’s an old man. He’s past 90 and he’s lived a full and fabulous life. When it’s his time to leave this world, the president — a deeply devout Christian — will be ready.

I’m glad to know his time among us isn’t up just yet.


Carter demonstrates — again — his class and grace

**FILE**Former President Jimmy Carter takes a question during a conference at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Tuesday, June 7, 2005. An independent panel Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005 reversed a Pentagon recommendation that the New London submarine base in Connecticut, base be closed. One of the panel members even said a letter from Carter _ the only president to ever serve as a submariner _ pleading the panel to keep the base open was one of the reasons he voted against closure. (AP Photo/Ric Feld, File)

First of all, let me stipulate — as if it’s needed — that I am praying for President Jimmy Carter’s full recovery from cancer.

None of us beyond the former president and his immediate family knows what the doctors told him when they revealed that he had cancer — and that it had spread to his brain.

But to watch the 39th president tell the world about his diagnosis was to get a hint — I believe — in a prognosis that doesn’t appear very hopeful.

“It’s in God’s hands now,’’ he said. My belief is that when someone invokes God, well … you know what I mean.

His absolute devotion to his deep Christian faith brings hope that he truly is at peace with whatever awaits him. The president told us all that he is ready for whatever outcome awaits him. And watching this man for nearly 40 years from afar, but getting a feel for his deeply held religious faith, you get the sense that he really and truly is at peace.

As many have noted, Jimmy Carter’s post-presidency has been far greater than the single term he served in the White House.

Someone asked him this week in Atlanta when he made his stark announcement about any regrets he had about his presidency.

He said he wishes he’d sent “one more helicopter” into the Iranian desert in April 1980 on that tragic mission to rescue the American hostages held captive by Iranian militants. Had he done that, Carter said, the mission likely would have succeeded and he would have been re-elected to a second term.

The reporters gathered in the room to record the event laughed.

President Carter smiled that broad, toothy grin we’ve all come to know.

He remains an optimist that he’ll win this battle. I’m hoping, too, that his inner strength will carry him forward to do more good work.

Peace be with you, Mr. President.


Praying for a former president


Jimmy Carter needs the nation’s prayers.

I intend to offer him mine. The 39th president of the United States today revealed that cancer has spread to his brain. He intends to undergo radiation therapy in an attempt to get rid of it.

As it is with people imbued with immense faith, President Carter said he is at peace with whatever outcome awaits him. This man teaches a Sunday school class at his Plains, Ga., church. His Christian faith is known around the world.

I strongly suspect that this good man isn’t worried about his future, regardless of what it brings.

Of course, I want him to recover from this illness and return to the good work that has been the hallmark of his lengthy post-presidential time. He has thrown himself into humanitarian causes, into ensuring free and fair elections in Third World countries and, yes, occasionally speaking out on public policy matters that concern him.

He is 90 now and continues to enjoy a fruitful and engaging life.

I hope it continues. I now intend to do my tiny part in trying to make it a reality by saying a prayer for his full recovery.