Senator John McCain passed away on Saturday, August 25th after his year-long battle with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer. He was four days short of his 82nd birthday.
And in the days since and days to come, the senator will be remembered for a great many things: his service to the country during the Vietnam world, his service to the US congress as senator, and his status as a verified American icon.
But we here will also remember him for the very last act of his American journey here on earth: glioblastoma advocate.
For the better part of the year since he announced his diagnosis in July of 2017, Senator McCain and his family have openly discussed his valiant fight with this horrible and aggressive disease.
While undergoing treatment, Senator McCain endured complications like a pneumonia infection last December and intestinal surgery to treat diverticulitis this April.
One of his final acts as a lion of the Senate was voting down the pivotal effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act; and research has shown that health insurance coverage, as well as the quality of insurance coverage, is linked to cancer survival rates.
Dr. Susan Chang, director of neuro-oncology at the University of California, San Francisco, said that when someone in the national spotlight is public about their diagnosis, it can do so much to raise the necessary awareness for more scientific research in the area.
“High-profile patients bring to the forefront the challenge that we face with this,” Chang said. “We really need to be moving the needle as much as we can, because it’s such a terrible disease.”
And his daughter Meghan McCain has also been a loud voice of advocacy, using her platform as a cohost on The View to talk about glioblastoma…
…including inviting a young woman with the rare cancer to talk about it on the show and notably sharing a very special moment with former Vice President Joe Biden, who not only was a close friend of Senator McCain, but who also lost his son to the same cancer a few years prior.
There is no wrong way to face a disease – and the late senator would have been forgiven if after years of public service to this country, he would have opted to face this fight with the privacy he deserves.
But instead, he talked about it. Often. He used his humor, his candor, and his McCain-esque optimism to inject hope and promise into a disease that often doesn’t show it.
Because of his diagnosis and his willingness to share it with the public, there is renewed attention and conversations about glioblastoma and other rare cancers.
John McCain was a hero in the battlefield, in Congress, in political life at large, and lastly, in the area of medical advocacy that we hold so dear here.
Rest in peace, Senator and thank you for pushing the fight to treatment and a cure that much closer.