Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I doubt we're getting the whole story on John McCain.

Back when my mother was dying of brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM), Ted Kennedy died of the same cancer in 2009, just six days before my fortieth birthday. He had been diagnosed with brain cancer in May of 2008. Upon Kennedy's death, I wrote a blog post on my other blog regarding how the media had treated Kennedy's illness with kid gloves to the extent that they were actually distorting the truth. Of course, these days, many if not most Americans are thoroughly cynical when it comes to media truthfulness, so when an article comes out about John McCain's recent intestinal surgery, I'm openly skeptical.

John McCain was diagnosed with GBM last July. The above-linked article references McCain's daughter Meghan, who apparently "expressed optimism in March that her father would be back in the Senate by the summer." It could be that Meghan really thinks her father might be back and working in Washington, but it's far more likely that this sentiment, sincere or not, was tailored "for the troops," so to speak, to provide encouragement to those around her father who might need some cheering up. If John McCain really is in good enough health, by this summer, to continue working in DC, I'll eat my hat. By the one-year mark, a GBM tumor has usually begun to spread across the brain from one hemisphere to another; by this point, first-line therapies have failed, and the family has made a choice to move on to more innovative—and more desperate—second-line therapies. The story arc is the same for well over 90% of GBM patients: life expectancy after diagnosis is 11 to 13 months. Ted Kennedy was just over that range, at 15 months; my mother was just under that range, at 9 months. Kennedy had, as I noted on the other blog, all the king's horses and all the king's men at his disposal, and he still failed to break the statistical curve.

So if Senator McCain is truly functional enough to get back to work this coming summer, I'll tip my hat to the team of doctors currently caring for him (after which I'll eat that hat). In the meantime, we're getting no specifics about the senator's treatment regimen. Did he go through debulking surgery at the beginning (which often excises a large amount of healthy brain matter along with the cancerous tissue)? Has he indeed been on the standard chemo-radio regimen? What do his brain scans currently show happening inside his head? How is McCain, clinically speaking? How's he functioning in his day-to-day life? The media won't be providing any answers anytime soon. Perhaps that's partly out of a rare respect for someone's privacy; perhaps that's because When in doubt, black it out. One way or another, I'm skeptical. And if McCain's not back in DC by August, I think we'll all have a much clearer picture of how he's really doing. Personally, I don't expect him to make it to Christmas.

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