John McCain's brain cancer: A tragic diagnosis for an American hero

Cancer seems to be more prevalent today than ever before, but that is an illusion.  Americans today are living far longer than did their grandparents, and if you live long enough, cancer becomes an increasingly common problem.

John McCain has just gone public with his diagnosis of a particularly aggressive kind of malignant brain cancer – a primary glioblastoma, which was removed last Friday at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.  Doctors reported that the entire tumor had been successfully removed.  Regardless of your views on John McCain's politics, he is an authentic American hero who deserves our prayers and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.

Brain cancer is a particular tragedy, no matter whom it strikes.  Survival for patients with McCain's diagnosis averages – with aggressive treatment – 14 months, and five-year survival rates hover at around 10 percent.  John McCain beat the odds in North Vietnam, where he was a tortured POW, and in his political career, which many pundits wrote off not once, but many times.  My prayer for him is that he beats these odds once again, for his family's sake and for his country's sake.

Back in 1991, an old friend of mine – Lee Atwater – died from complications from a malignant brain tumor.  Those who knew Lee as a dynamic, vibrant, and brilliant political analyst, as well as one hell of a great guy, were devastated by the impact of the cancer, and of the failed treatment that robbed his last months of any kind of dignity.  Lee and I ran the Ford for President South Carolina campaign – at 23, he was the youngest state party chairman in America.  It still seems unbelievable that he died just fifteen years later.

A political polar opposite, Ted Kennedy, also died from this insidious cancer.  It is not selective, and when it strikes, it is crippling at best, and all too often fatal.

This same kind of brain cancer touched my own life twice – costing me both my father and my oldest and closest friend.

This kind of disease is a great equalizer – nobody "deserves" brain cancer.  The Mayo Clinic is as good as it gets, and we can all pray that their best is enough to restore John McCain to health.  Even so, he faces a long, tough road ahead – his treatment will include both radiation and chemotherapy, which can be brutal on their own. 

To my fellow conservatives, set aside your politics for a moment and come together in support of a brave American who is fighting for his life.

Ned Barnett ( is a political consultant, ghostwriter, and strategic marketing expert in Las Vegas.

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