I looked at former Vice President Joe Biden, tears streaming down my face, as he spoke to a small group of people in early 2016 about the loss of his son Beau to glioblastoma. It was a talk similar to ones he had given in the previous months, a tough discussion about the same cancer that took Sen. Ted Kennedy. And the same cancer that Sen. John McCain has recently been diagnosed with.
What struck me about Biden’s remarks that day was his adamant statement that, had it been one year later, his son would be standing next to him on stage. He believed that had there been one more year of research, data, and technology, Beau would have made it.
It’s been just over a year, and every American is hoping he’s right. His colleague, his challenger, and his friend has been diagnosed at a point in time where prognoses are improving and survival rates are over five years. To which McCain tweeted, “I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support – unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!”
This theme of bravery has been prevalent for days, expressed by him as well as his colleagues. The image says McCain is a hero (he is) and a fighter (he is), but can win this battle on those merits alone. Truthfully, it’s not about bravery or heroism.
Glioblastoma are nasty. They are tumors of the “glue-like” tissue of the brain. Because of their job within the brain, they reproduce quickly and have an abundance of blood vessels. McCain’s fight is for cancer research and treatment. Like Beau Biden and Kennedy, financial resources, the best Rolodex in the world, and powerful allies cannot save him. The incredible progress America has made in understanding the human body will.
This is evident by the treatment and survival of former President Jimmy Carter. Although diagnosed with melanoma that spread to his brain—a different form of brain cancer—he was treated with immunotherapy. Within six months of treatment, Carter not only saw the impact of the immune system being trained to fight cancerous tumors, but his treatment itself was stopped. Technological advancements like those would not have been available to him five years before.
Luckily for McCain, his tumor—which was associated with a blood clot—was surgically removed. So from this point forward it’s about God, evolution, and science. I pray for the senator, I have faith that we’ve come as far as Biden thinks we can in a year, and I believe McCain is going to be a voice of reason in Congress and America for years to come.
There is a long battle ahead. But if anyone is equipped for the journey, and can make an incredibly positive, bipartisan difference in Washington DC following a tragedy, it is McCain. His colleagues, his constituents, and Americans across the country are dependent on him to fight for families facing battles with cancer.