Tag Archives: cancer

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.


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.