It’s the kind of diagnosis that rises above politics. Around the country, prayers are being said after news that Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.
According to doctors, the 80-year-old lawmaker and former Vietnam prisoner of war has glioblastoma. McCain had a blood clot removed from above his left eye last Friday at the Mayo Clinic when the tumor was discovered. He and his family are considering further treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation.
“Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot,” McCain’s office said in a statement late Wednesday.
The American Brain Tumor Association reports that more than 12,000 people a year are diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same type of tumor that struck McCain’s close Democratic colleague in legislative battles, the late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. The American Cancer Society puts the five-year survival rate for patients over 55 between 3-4 percent.
In other words, the diagnoses is likely fatal.
The senator and chairman of the Armed Services Committee had been recovering at his Arizona home. His absence forced Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay action on healthcare legislation.
The news rises above politics. As word spread of his diagnosis, presidents past and present along with McCain’s current and former Senate colleagues offered support in an outpouring rarely seen in Washington.
“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon,” President Donald Trump said.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he spoke to McCain Wednesday evening and that McCain said: “Yeah, I’m going to have to stay here a little bit longer, take some treatments. I’ll be back.”
In a statement on Twitter, his daughter, Meghan McCain, spoke of the shock of the news and the anxiety over what happens next. “My love for my father is boundless and like any daughter I cannot and do not wish to be in a world without him. I have faith that those days remain far away,” she said.
McCain has a lifetime of near-death experiences – surviving the July 1967 fire and explosion on the USS Forrestal that killed 134 sailors; flying into power lines in Spain; the October 1967 shoot-down of his Navy aircraft and fall into Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi; and 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison.
“The Hanoi Hilton couldn’t break John McCain’s spirit many years ago, so Barbara and I know — with confidence — he and his family will meet this latest battle in his singular life of service with courage and determination,” said former President George H.W. Bush.
Former President Bill Clinton said: “As he’s shown his entire life, don’t bet against John McCain. Best wishes to him for a swift recovery.”
The junior senator from Arizona, Republican Jeff Flake, said Thursday that McCain told him about his tumor only at the end of a telephone conversation, saying he was “feeling fine, but I might have some chemotherapy in my future.” Flake said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that his colleague is “optimistic, obviously. He’s John McCain. That’s what we’d expect.”
In the past, McCain had been treated for melanoma, but a primary tumor is unrelated. Doctors said McCain is recovering from his surgery “amazingly well” and his underlying health is excellent.
With his irascible grin and fighter-pilot moxie, McCain was elected to the Senate from Arizona six times, most recently last year, but twice thwarted in seeking the presidency.
An upstart presidential bid in 2000 didn’t last long. Eight years later, he fought back from the brink of defeat to win the GOP nomination, only to be overpowered by Barack Obama. McCain chose a little-known Alaska governor as his running mate in that race, and helped turn Sarah Palin into a national political figure.
After losing to Obama, McCain returned to the Senate, determined not to be defined by a failed presidential campaign. And when Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, McCain embraced his new job as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, eager to play a big role “in defeating the forces of radical Islam that want to destroy America.”
Throughout his long tenure in Congress, McCain has played his role with trademark verve, at one hearing dismissing a protester by calling out, “Get out of here, you low-life scum.”
In an interview with The Associated Press in 2013, McCain spoke of his decades in Congress, legislative achievements and political defeats.
“The last thing I am is bitter and angry. … I’ve had the most full life,” he said. “I would compare my life to anybody that I’ve ever known and it’s been one of great good fortune and I’m grateful every day.”
The prayers of The Horn News staff are with McCain and his family during this difficult time.
The Associated Press contributed to this article