Tag Archives: cancer

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.


That's it, flush the cancer from your body

Here’s an item that requires you to suspend your disbelief, so get ready for it.

Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a Republican, thinks you can flush cancer from your body using baking soda. She wants to change state law to allow more treatments that aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Hey, it gets better.

Fiore runs a health care company, apparently licensed by the state.


Fiore also has a radio talk show, in which she told her listeners:  “If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus, and we can put a pic line into your body and we’re flushing, let’s say, salt water, sodium cardonate [sic], through that line, and flushing out the fungus… These are some procedures that are not FDA-approved in America that are very inexpensive, cost-effective.”

That’s it. Cancer is a “fungus,” kind of like, oh, the stuff that makes your toenails ugly.

What in the name of medical malpractice is this individual suggesting?

Read my lips, Michele: Cancer ain’t a fungus. You can’t treat it with salt water. My mother went through two bouts of cancer in her life; an aunt and two uncles fought it like crazy, although the disease took my aunt and one of my uncles. A cousin of mine was stricken with it as a teenager.

This isn’t the kind of disease you treat in the manner she suggests.

Assemblywoman Fiore needs a serious reality check. Furthermore, someone ought to take a look at what kind of health care she’s providing at that company she owns.


Start shouting for Alzheimer's research

T.R. Reid, writing in the January-February AARP Bulletin, puts it succinctly and powerfully.

Alzheimer’s disease is “the most expensive disease in America” and it is “devouring federal and state health care budgets, and depleting the life savings of million of victims and their families.”

So, what are the federal and state governments doing about it? What kind of public resources are they committing to fighting this dangerous killer?

Too damn little, according to Reid.

He’s correct. That must change.


Reid, a former reporter for the Washington Post, notes that the “cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias has surpassed the cost of treatment for cancer patients or victims of heart disease.” Alzhiemer’s disease, says Huntington Potter, a University of Colorado neurobiologist, is “going to bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid.”

Let’s get busy, folks.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts 5.2 million Americans — at the moment. The number is going to increase as the nation’s population continues to age. One projection puts the number of Americans suffering from the disease by 2050 at 13.8 million.

How has Alzheimer’s research funding stacked up to other deadly diseases? Reid writes the federal government has committed $5.4 billion on cancer research, $1.2 billion on heart disease and $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research. Alzheimer’s disease research will get $566 million.

My own interest in this disease is intensely personal. My mother died of complications of Alzheimer’s in 1984. She was 61 years of age when she died. Sixty-one! She’d exhibited symptoms for perhaps a decade.

The pain of watching a loved one lose their memory, their cognitive skill, their ability to take care of basic needs is beyond description. Take my word for it.

And that pain is going to spread as more Americans fall victim to this merciless killer.

Federal government estimates put the cost of Alzheimer’s care at about $214 billion annually. Medicare and Medicaid pay about $150 billion per year; the rest of the cost falls on patients and their families, according to Reid.

Why hasn’t there been an outcry for federal funding of this disease as there have been for cancer or HIV/AIDS? Part of it is stigma, Reid reports. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, “I think the problem is that there’s still a stigma attached to Alzheimer’s and other dementias. People don’t want to talk about it. By contrast, LGBT groups have no qualms about campaigning for HIV/AIDS research. The cancer advocacy groups are extremely well-organized, vocal and politically skillful, with their Race for the Cure and everyone wearing pink for a month.”

I’ve made it my mission with this blog to call attention whenever possible to the need to boost attention to this disease. Its impact doesn’t just affect those who afflicted with it. It causes severe pain and anguish on care-givers and other loved ones.

The good news — if you want to call it such — is that some notable celebrities are beginning to put the word out there. One of them is Seth Rogen, the comic actor known most recently for his role in the controversial film “The Interview.”

“Americans whisper the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ because their government whispers the word ‘Alzheimers,'” Rogen told a Senate committee hearing in 2014. Rogen’s own interest has been fueled by his mother-in-law’s struggle with the disease. “It needs to be yelled and screamed to the point that it finally gets the attending and the funding it deserves.”

Well, young man, I’m with you. I’ll yell and scream for as long as it takes.


Alzheimer's disease: Enemy No. 1

Several hundred Amarillo residents are going for a walk Saturday.

It’s an annual event here, as it is in communities all across the country. They’ll walk to call attention to Alzheimer’s disease. I won’t be among them that day, as I’ll be working.

However, my heart is with them. All of them. I want them to raise money and to keep raising money to fight a killer disease with which my family and I have intimate knowledge.


Thirty years ago this week, my dear mother died quietly in her sleep. Her death certificate lists pneumonia as the cause of her death.

Alzheimer’s disease was the real culprit.

Mom was 61. She’d been in failing health for several years. A doctor diagnosed her officially with Alzheimer’s disease only four years earlier but in reality she’d been exhibiting symptoms for years prior to that diagnosis.

Her behavior was changing. She was losing her cognitive skill. She lost them one at a time. The ability to sign her own name. The ability to drive a car. She couldn’t cook meals. Eventually she couldn’t bathe herself. She couldn’t dress herself. Near the end she couldn’t speak and was reduced to making strange murmuring noises.

Those who have witnessed their loved ones vanish in this manner before their eyes understand this fundamental truth about Alzheimer’s disease: It afflicts the caregiver far more than the patient. Mom was unaware of her surroundings, of those who loved her. She didn’t know when she lapsed in and out of lucidity. But we knew it. It broke our hearts.

Alzheimer’s disease hasn’t captured the public’s imagination the way, say, AIDS or various forms of cancer have gobbled up so much of the world’s attention. Why? I guess it’s because its victims generally are older and that its not the result of unhealthy behavior. It strikes people without warning or cause.

It struck Mom that way, just as it strikes those who’ve been diagnosed with this merciless, cruel disease.

Our nation is aging. That means more Americans will suffer from this terrible affliction.

My wish — as always — is that modern medicine can find a cure, a vaccine to eradicate Alzheimer’s disease.

The Saturday walk at Sam Houston Park will raise money toward that end.

My prayer today is that the money raised will put researchers over the top in their hunt for a cure that ends the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease.