Saturday, May 12, 2018

the sunset of John McCain

As I predicted, it now seems utterly unlikely that Senator John McCain, the consummate Never Trumper, will be returning to Congress to fulfill his duties as an elected official. Much more likely will be an announcement of his retirement from politics over the coming months. McCain's brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is at about the one-year mark now (i.e., one year after diagnosis), and this is, statistically, when most GBM patients die.

McCain seems to have retained enough of his mental faculties to have, in recent days, expressed regret at having picked Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. He has also spoken against the confirmation of Gina Haspel to the position of CIA director, and he has stated that he doesn't want President Donald Trump to attend his funeral, but would rather have Vice President Mike Pence there instead.

If McCain is still functioning at that level after a whole year of suffering from advanced glioblastoma, I can surmise a thing or two. Most important is that, in order to retain this level of functionality, McCain must not have undergone what is usually the initial step in treating GBM: debulking surgery. A debulking operation removes as much of the original cancerous mass as possible, which entails removing a significant chunk of the brain. In my mother's case, this involved removing enough of her frontal lobe to render her permanently unable to take care of herself as well as unable to string together coherent thoughts in a logical way. McCain probably faced an uncomfortable choice last year, and at a guess, he went for the option that would allow him to remain mentally functional for the longest possible amount of time. Hence, minimal or zero debulking, plus the standard radiotherapy and chemotherapy. As of a few months ago, McCain's GBM would have begun to spread across his brain to the opposite lobe. Given that McCain is still at his home in Sedona, Arizona, we can guess that the GBM has multiplied inside his head to the point where mobility has become a serious problem.

I think it's sad that McCain is choosing to spend his final months continuing to fight Donald Trump, but I suppose Trump's very existence provides, perversely, a sort of focus for the cantankerous McCain—a reason to stay coherent and to keep soldiering on. As to whether one should feel a twinge of sadness or regret over McCain's imminent departure from this plane of existence, I'll hand the microphone over to Styx, who has some choice words within the first 45 seconds of this video:

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