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John McCain Diagnosed With Brain Cancer

Discussing treatment options with family and doctors

Sen. John McCain, seen here aboard the Grand Canyon Railroad with his wife Cindy one year ago, has been diagnosed with brain cancer. (Daniel A. Anderson for CQ Roll Call /File Photo)
Sen. John McCain, seen here aboard the Grand Canyon Railroad with his wife Cindy one year ago, has been diagnosed with brain cancer. (Daniel A. Anderson for CQ Roll Call /File Photo)

Sen. John McCain has a brain tumor and may  undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The tumor was diagnosed after the longtime senator and war hero underwent surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix.

“Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot,” the Mayo Clinic said in a statement.

“Scanning done since the procedure (a minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision) shows that the tissue of concern was completely resected by imaging criteria,” the hospital said. “The Senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.”

A glioblastoma is a fast-growing tumor.

“They are the most aggressive and are very infiltrative — they spread into other parts of the brain quickly,” explains a report from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. “Glioblastomas don’t metastasize outside of the brain.”

Thoughts and prayers

The senator has a fight ahead of him. Senate colleagues were quick to express their thoughts and prayers for the Arizona Republican.

One of the first expressions of support for McCain came from the man who defeated him for the presidency in 2008, former President Barack Obama.

John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against,” Obama said in a tweet. “Give it hell, John.”

That sentiment was shared by Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike.

John McCain is a hero to our Conference and a hero to our country. He has never shied from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life. The entire Senate family’s prayers are with John, Cindy and his family, his staff, and the people of Arizona he represents so well,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “We all look forward to seeing this American hero again soon.”

The Kentucky Republican was not alone. Shortly after 9 p.m. the White House issued a statement.

“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter,” President Donald Trump said. “Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon.”

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner said, “Not only is John McCain an American hero but he is also an amazing friend, father, husband, and son. I will be thinking of him every day as he fights this latest battle, and I look forward to seeing him soon in a place where he has done tremendous things for his country and his constituents — the United States Senate.” 

McCain’s office had announced Saturday night that the senator would be remaining in Arizona on the advice of doctors after Friday’s surgery on the blood clot.

The senator’s daughter Meghan, who is co-host of a program on Fox News, issued a lengthy statement following the diagnosis saying that the family is working through the “anxiety about what comes next.”

“It won’t surprise you to learn that in all this, the one of us who is the most confident and calm is my father,” she wrote. “He is the toughest person I know. The cruelest enemy could not break him.”

One of McCain’s great friends in the Senate, Massachusetts Democrat Edward M. Kennedy, battled what has been described as a similar brain tumor for 15 months before his death in 2009.

The comparisons are unavoidable.

Kennedy’s medical condition affected the course of the debate on rewriting the nation’s health care system during the first two years of the Obama administration, with Kennedy coming to cast key votes whenever able.

Impact on health care

McCain faces the challenge just as Senate Republicans are in the midst of wrangling over how to roll back the 2010 health care law, with his condition being announced as senators were huddling about how to find the votes to advance legislation.

His office would not put any timetable on his return to the Senate. The chamber would ordinarily be less than two weeks out from the August recess, but McConnell has already announced plans to adjust the schedule and remain in session for two additional weeks.

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“Senator McCain appreciates the outpouring of support he has received over the last few days. He is in good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family in Arizona. He is grateful to the doctors and staff at Mayo Clinic for their outstanding care, and is confident that any future treatment will be effective,” McCain’s office said. “Further consultations with Senator McCain’s Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.”

The results of the tests make it seem unimaginable that McCain would be returning for any potential votes on rolling back the 2010 health care law next week, regardless of what form they may take.

On Monday, McCain issued a statement from Arizona calling for going back to the drawing board on health care and for a bipartisan committee process to move forward.

“As this law continues to crumble in Arizona and states across the country, we must not repeat the original mistakes that led to Obamacare’s failure,” McCain said. “The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation’s governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care.”