Posts Tagged ‘Brain cancer’

My heart goes out to Sen John McCain, 80, who was recently diagnosed with an extremely aggressive brain cancer. His glioblastoma was found “incidentally” in medical parlance, in that doctors were removing a blood clot that was associated with this condition when they found the culprit. It’s the same kind of tumor that killed Sen Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden’s son, Beau.

It’s the same cancer that killed my Father.

My Father was a pharmacist in Scranton, PA. He had survived the Great Depression and was raising five children with the Flapper. At first, it was only headaches, but later he lost the use of his left arm. My sister Kay had to help him actually grind medication in a mortar at the back of the drug store while her younger brothers read comic books up front. Psychology was a relatively new field at the time; a psychiatrist told my parents that they should have another child because my Father had “lost the will to live.”

I am that sixth child and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his glioblastoma. The Flapper always joked that I was the only child she had planned! My Father’s friend, an ophthalmologist, noticed his bulging retina and sent him back to the university hospital where they operated on his brain right before Christmas 1948. I was three months old. He died in April the next year, he was only 47. Our Year of Living Dangerously was just beginning.

Although I may not have agreed with Sen McCain’s policies over the years, I have always considered him a true patriot. And unlike many politicians, he didn’t couch his words in innuendo. He played it straight and tried to be fair and work across the aisle. His daughter, Meghan, Tweeted:

“It won’t surprise you to learn that in all this, the one of us who is most confident and calm is my father. He is the toughest person I know. The cruelest enemy could not break him. The aggressions of political life could not bend him. So he is meeting this challenge as he has every other. Cancer may afflict him in many ways: But it will not make him surrender. Nothing ever has.”

But this type of cancer is a very cruel enemy indeed. Survival rates are devastating – only 14 months average with 5-10% alive five years after the diagnosis. Will he choose to fight with chemotherapy and radiation, or will he choose to battle Mr T on the Senate floor? Looking at his recent statements to Sen Lindsay Graham, I think he may do both!

Something happens to us when we are reminded of our mortality, when time begins to shrink. Bob said after his cervical surgery, he had less patience with hospital shenanigans and employee’s misbehavior. Before surgery he may have forgiven a surgeon’s harassment in the OR, for example. After surgery, not so much.

McCain is a war hero, and he is already criticizing Mr T’s strategy, or lack thereof, in Syria and Afghanistan. But if you recall, that other Lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, was instrumental in getting President Obama’s ACA passed while he was battling this same cancer. If John McCain were to bring both parties together to salvage healthcare in this country, his legacy would be outstanding. I wish him well on this battlefield.

And check out the Google Doodle today. It’s celebrating the 106th birthday of Marshall McLuhan, who coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” He predicted the internet but I wonder what he would think of Twitter. It was a key factor in Mr T’s election, and has taken the place of greeting cards as our politicians send heartwarming thoughts to McCain in 140 “characters.”

I don’t know which brother’s arm is sticking out behind the Flapper, but this is one of the few pictures I have of my Father.    IMG_0991






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