July 20th, 2017

John McCain diagnosed with brain tumor

John McCain is a controversial figure within the Republican Party. Although he was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008 (or maybe because of it), he’s disliked and even hated by many conservatives because he’s the quintessential RINO, the “reach across the aisle” guy who often undercuts conservative positions.

And yet he’s got a history that makes most people admire him (except, perhaps, Donald Trump, but let’s not go there) when he was a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 long years in what was sarcastically called “The Plantation.” You can find some of the story here, and it shows an impressive strength of character and body:

They took me out of my room to “Slopehead,” who said, “You have violated all the camp regulations. You’re a black criminal. You must confess your crimes.” I said that I wouldn’t do that, and he asked, “Why are you so disrespectful of guards?” I answered, “Because the guards treat me like an animal.”

When I said that, the guards, who were all in the room—about 10 of them—really laid into me. They bounced me from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching. After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes. Then I was taken to a small room. For punishment they would almost always take you to another room where you didn’t have a mosquito net or a bed or any clothes. For the next four days, I was beaten every two to three hours by different guards. My left arm was broken again and my ribs were cracked.

They wanted a statement saying that I was sorry for the crimes that I had committed against North Vietnamese people and that I was grateful for the treatment that I had received from them. This was the paradox—so many guys were so mistreated to get them to say they were grateful. But this is the Communist way.

I held out for four days. Finally, I reached the lowest point of my 5½ years in North Vietnam. I was at the point of suicide, because I saw that I was reaching the end of my rope.

I said, O.K., I’ll write for them.

They took me up into one of the interrogation rooms, and for the next 12 hours we wrote and rewrote. The North Vietnamese interrogator, who was pretty stupid, wrote the final confession, and I signed it. It was in their language, and spoke about black crimes, and other generalities. It was unacceptable to them. But I felt just terrible about it. I kept saying to myself, “Oh, God, I really didn’t have any choice.” I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.

Then the “gooks” made a very serious mistake, because they let me go back and rest for a couple of weeks. They usually didn’t do that with guys when they had them really busted. I think it concerned them that my arm was broken, and they had messed up my leg. I had been reduced to an animal during this period of beating and torture. My arm was so painful I couldn’t get up off the floor. With the dysentery, it was a very unpleasant time.

Thank God they let me rest for a couple of weeks. Then they called me up again and wanted something else. I don’t remember what it was now—it was some kind of statement. This time I was able to resist. I was able to carry on. They couldn’t “bust” me again.

McCain was left with permanent injuries from his time as a prisoner.

Now he’s been diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer called glioblastoma. The prognosis is not good although the tumor was apparently removed during a surgery; the average survival time of glioblastoma patients after diagnosis is 14 months with treatment, although 10% live 5 years or longer. I’d bet on McCain surviving longer than average for two reasons.

The first is that he’s tough, and the second is that it appears his tumor may have been diagnosed earlier than usual and before he had any symptoms except a blood clot and some problems mild enough that most people would not even have gone to a doctor about them. He was visiting the physician as part of routine periodic screenings he has for possible recurrence of the melanomas that have plagued him for about nearly two decades.

I have some political quarrels with John McCain, but I very much hope he recovers and lives much longer than average, symptom-free.

[NOTE: The photo at the top of this post is of McCain in a Hanoi hospital shortly after he was taken prisoner in October of 1967.]

19 Responses to “John McCain diagnosed with brain tumor”

  1. Sharon W Says:

    I, too, have my disagreements with Senator McCain. But I laud him for his service and especially how he conducted himself in his prisoner of war experience. I said a prayer for him this morning at Mass.

  2. Oldflyer Says:

    I hope that he recovers as quickly as possible; and retires immediately. The GOP, and the country, need a full complement of functional Senators right now. Unfortunately, a senate friend quoted him saying “I’ll be back”.

    Of course I have wanted him to retire for some time now.

    I have had the opportunity to know a few POWs. Most, if not all, of them endured extreme hardship with extraordinary courage; and returned with minimal individual fanfare.

  3. Julia Says:

    How terrible. I actually voted for him when I voted for Palin.

    The venom from both sides of the aisle is shocking. He served his country, has tried to do the right thing (although I disagree with many of his stands) and deserves respect.

    I will pray for him as well.

  4. Frog Says:

    As an oncologist, I can say there is ZERO hope for “recovery”, though possibly some prolongation of survival.
    This glioblastoma, GBM in the trade, is left frontal; he is right-handed, I believe, so this is his dominant frontal lobe, the seat of higher cognitive functions. And he has been reported as speaking oddly and asking odd questions at hearings lately. His diagnosis must be deemed delayed.

    Length of survival is a function of age with this brain tumor; the older one is, the shorter the projected survival. For those in their 50s, median survival is now in the almost three-year range with resection of as much as possible, followed by chemo and radiation. Forty years ago,survival was in the 20 month range, so this is one tough puppy. One is always checked by the risk of brain damage from either surgery or radiation. Back in the 1960s removal of the involved half of the brain was done in a few cases, with the consequent paralysis, but no improved survival.
    This tumor can cross to the right side via the anterior corpus callosum, and extend posteriorly into the motor cortex, causing motor deficits on the right hemi-body in McCain’s case.
    At McCain’s age, 14 mo. survival is optimistic. Remember, that figure means MEDIAN survival, the time at which 50% of the cohort is dead.

    Teddy Kennedy had the same tumor and with excellent multi-institutional care had much better than median survival for his age. But that entailed more than one craniotomy, some treatment in Boston, some at Duke in NC. And he was largely nonfunctional as a Senator for most of that period. Scott Brown won his seat, but Reid refused to seat him until Obamacare, which Brown opposed, was passed by the barest minimum # of votes, 60. Remember?
    McCain is therefore done as a Senator. He should resign promptly so a successor can be named to vote on legislation, but I doubt McCain’s rather large ego will allow that, refusing to acknowledge cognitive impairment.

  5. Cornhead Says:


    What about new GBM drugs in testing by ZIOP, JUNO and KITE?

  6. J.J. Says:

    The Vietnam POWs went through hell. Just being locked up in solitary for many years is bad, but they were subjected to real torture – the kind that results in lifelong crippling. But for the grace of God I could have been one of them. I doubt I would have acquitted myself as well as McCain did.

    I have disagreed with McCain on many political issues as well, but my admiration for his Naval service has never waned.

    This is devastating news for him and his family. My thoughts and prayers are for them all. I hope that the time remaining to him is filled with family and love.

  7. Hank Balz Says:

    the real mccain:



  8. OldTexan Says:

    As with a lot of you I voted for McCain/Palin and if the press had not been so vicious they might have had a better chance and if elected done a decent job but that did not happen.

    I admired John McCain the warrior who was an Admiral’s son and went in harm’s way and paid a very dear price. He is indeed a war hero.

    I am afraid as the years went by he mellowed and tried to be a peace keeper meeting in the middle with people who never meet in the middle. Any compromise they consider a weakness and they take what you give them and then they demand more because the have already received a bit.

    Having said all of that I do wish him well and know that his outcome is dim, cancer is a bitch. I have been down that road three times working now with part of one kidney and at times waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    My prayers, and yes I am a go to church Christian who pray and believes in the power of prayer, go out to John McCain and his family. My thanks go out to a man who did his duty for his country.

  9. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    A relative of mine in his 50s – well able to afford the very best in medical care and to find the newest and most promising treatments and clinical trials – was diagnosed with glioblastoma late in the fall and dead by early spring. It’s a vicious, hideous disease. Based on my relative’s experience, I think it’s unlikely that, following the tumor and the surgery, McCain will retain the judgment capacity to realize that he should step down.

    I have often disliked or disagreed with McCain, but you can’t help respecting his history – unless you’re Trump, of course, whose remarks about him I find almost impossible to understand or forgive. The inimitable David Foster Wallace wrote a thoughtful, remarkable essay about McCain’s 2000 primary campaign that is well worth reading if you want to know more about the complicated political conundrum that is McCain. There’s a version of it here:
    https://justpaste.it/weaselshrub and what I think is a longer version in Wallace’s collection “Consider the Lobster.”

    I wish him whatever may be the best and kindest outcome.

  10. Cornhead Says:

    Again to all above re GBM:

    Big new clinical studies with ZIOP as the leader. Superstar doc is the CEO and they have a big deal with MD Anderson in Houston.

  11. huxley Says:

    As a non-oncologist, glioblastoma is one of the last diagnoses I would want to hear. That never turns out well in my reading.

    An interesting woman, Joan Targ, daughter of Bobby Fischer’s sister and Russell Targ, the Stanford parapsychologist, followed in her father’s footsteps as a parapsychologist. She did a study of the effect of prayer on glioblastoma then developed the disease herself.


    Anyway she had a three-ring circus of New Age people trying to heal her but she died anyway.

  12. Ann Says:

    Not sure he’ll retire — this just released:


    Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today on reports that the administration is ending a program to assist the Syrian opposition:

    “If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin. Making any concession to Russia, absent a broader strategy for Syria, is irresponsible and short-sighted. The administration has yet to articulate its vision for Syria beyond the defeat of ISIL, let alone a comprehensive approach to the Middle East. A key pillar of American strategy must be the removal of Assad from power as part of an end to the brutal conflict in Syria, which has fueled ISIL’s growth through its cruelty, extended malign Iranian influence, and undermined broader regional stability. Six months into this administration, there is still no new strategy for victory in Afghanistan either. It is now mid-July, when the administration promised to deliver that strategy to Congress, and we are still waiting.”

    And he tweeted this today: “I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support — unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!”

  13. The Other Chuck Says:

    Re the person above who linked scurrilous articles about John McCain – go to hell. We can disagree with his politics and dislike his personality, but he endured torture as a prisoner of war while acting to defend us. Attacking a war hero diagnosed with terminal cancer is about as low as you can go.

  14. parker Says:

    I wish McCain no ill, but as a Senator he has been a show boat anal orifice.

  15. Frog Says:

    The Other Chuck: Your remark requires a modest correction.
    In no way was Vietnam a war of defense for America. It was a war to defend the South Vietnamese from the assault by Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh (remember the leftist chant?) and the ChiComm-supported North Vietnam.

    What makes a military hero? What defines heroism? Was McCain in ‘Nam a Sgt. York equivalent? York risked life and limb many times in accomplishing victories in combat and saving lives of his fellow soldiers. Was York an equal to those that suffered in the trenches, getting gassed or getting trench foot or both, never being able to ‘take it to the enemy’?

    McCain was a victim of the horrendous brutality of communism that was also meted out by the North after the Democrats in DC reneged on their solemn promise to fund the South in its defense, and so delivered all of Vietnam into communist hands. The thousands of ‘boat people’ who drowned in flight, remember?

    It has thus always puzzled me that McCain so often crossed the aisle to collude with the party of the anti-war perpetrators, the Dems.

    Finally, let us remember the Keating Five, five Senators who took money from Keating in his 1980s campaign to save his failing bank. McCain took the most money, and the Senate Ethics Committee found him guilty of only “poor judgment.” Comey said the same thing about Hillary last year.

    Oddly, the McCain statement posted above by Ann refers to “ISIL”. Only the Obamacrats used that, instead of ISIS. Curious.

    I post none of this in animus, but in the interest of facts and, possibly, discussion.

  16. The Other Chuck Says:

    Frog and Parker, your remarks may well be true. McCain certainly is man of many personal flaws, which I think is beside the point when discussing his current and final struggle. None of us are going to ignore his mixed political record, but this isn’t the time to pile on.

    As to war hero status, that he risked his life, was shot down, wounded, captured by the enemy and tortured unmercifully, is beyond question. If you want to lessen that by saying he wasn’t really defending this country, only South Vietnam, then you fall into the category of the anti-war left. He was a member of the United States military charged with defending this country and its interests, which he did at great and lasting personal risk and sacrifice.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    The Other Chuck; et al:

    See this.

  18. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Way to be like Kennedy, McCain, dying with a brain tumor or some such thing.

  19. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The first is that he’s tough, and the second is that it appears his tumor may have been diagnosed earlier than usual and before he had any symptoms except a blood clot and some problems mild enough that most people would not even have gone to a doctor about them. He was visiting the physician as part of routine periodic screenings he has for possible recurrence of the melanomas that have plagued him for about nearly two decades.

    Congress is immune to O care, that is why they still have gold/silver plated plans, which allows them almost unfettered access to medical sources such as pre diagnostic scans for cancer.

    The rest of you Americans can apparently die in a ditch and your DC overlords will merely toast good riddance.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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