Anniversary of John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis underscores senator’s outspoken year

July 19, 2018

Anniversary of John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis underscores senator’s outspoken year Gage Skidmore / CCL

This Thursday marks one year since Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) shocked the world with his announcement that he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma. In the year since, the 81-year-old senator has voted to kill an Obamacare repeal, published a memoir, appeared in a documentary about his life, and criticized President Donald Trump on everything from trade to diplomacy.

But few know how the lawmaker is really faring since retreating home to Arizona in December, as details of his condition have been under wraps. Still, a neurologist who is not treating McCain commented on how someone with McCain’s illness might be doing a year later.

“Most aggressive” tumor

Michael Lawton, from the Barrow Neurological Institute, said that McCain has the “most aggressive” type of brain tumor and that it’s “difficult, impossible really” to cure. But McCain’s frequent statements on current events are a sign that he’s doing well. 

“Just judging from the comments that he makes publicly on current events and the fact that he’s still an active senator, I think he must be doing very well,” he said. “I think his tumor was in a more favorable location so it allowed some aggressivity on the parts of his surgeons and his treating team.”

But Lawton added that the cancer will recur eventually. The average survival rate for the disease is 16 months.

“There will then come a point where the tumor will become symptomatic, and there are signs of recurrence, and I think those are where patients have the toughest choices to make,” Lawton said.

McCain’s eventful year

McCain’s wife Cindy thanked her husband’s caregivers and doctors for keeping him going in a statement last Thursday.

“That he is still with us one eventful year later, still working at getting stronger, still engaged in the life of his family and our country, is as much a testament to their dedication, skill, and compassion as it is to his fighting spirit,” Cindy said. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

McCain returned to the Senate floor shortly after his diagnosis last July, when he cast a dramatic 11th hour vote to kill an Obamacare “skinny repeal” — but McCain couldn’t stay long in the Capitol. Forced by illness, he retreated to Arizona in December, where he has remained ever since.

At home in Arizona, McCain has received therapy to recover from treatment while spending time with family and friends. He has since appeared in a documentary about his life, which featured shots of McCain at his ranch near Sedona, and even published a memoir, The Restless Wave, in which he reflected on his life and made some critical remarks about Trump, who he compared to a dictator.

Always a critic

McCain can’t vote from home in Arizona, but he has continued to make his voice heard on political issues. He recently called President Trump’s decision to not pressure Vladimir Putin on election meddling “disgraceful,” and he made similarly negative judgments on Trump’s behavior at a NATO summit last week and the G-7 summit last month.

Even more recently, McCain’s illness has become a question mark in the battle to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh. McCain is one of 51 Republican senators, and Republicans need exactly 51 votes to confirm the nominee.

McCain is unlikely to return to the Capitol to vote, which effectively lowers the tally to 50. Meanwhile, the senator’s health condition has prompted speculations on whether he will step down to push Kavanaugh, who he reportedly supports, through.

But as with most things in the senator’s life, only time will tell what the future holds.

Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.