McCain’s cancer diagnosis jolts Senate

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives ...In this July 11, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. McCain has been diagnosed with a brain tumor after a blood clot was removed.

WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain’s diagnosis of brain cancer jolted the Senate where Republicans and Democrats offered prayers and words of encouragement for a six-term lawmaker with a war hero past.

“The outpouring of bipartisan respect and love for John McCain as he faces this cancer battle reminds us that after all the meanness there is a human side to politicians,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Thursday. “Count this Democrat in John McCain’s corner.”

Said Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga.: “John McCain is a friend, a mentor and a true patriot. If anyone can tackle a challenge like this, it’s him.”

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee and Vietnam prisoner of war who has spent more than three decades in Congress was diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer. The 80-year-old Arizona lawmaker has glioblastoma, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, where McCain had a blood clot removed above his left eye last Friday. He and his family are considering further treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation.

“Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot,” his office said in a statement late Wednesday.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, more than 12,000 people a year are diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same type of tumor that struck McCain’s close Democratic colleague in legislative battles, the late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. The American Cancer Society puts the five-year survival rate for patients over 55 at about 4 percent.

The senator and chairman of the Armed Services Committee had been recovering at his Arizona home. His absence forced Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to delay action on health care legislation.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he spoke to McCain Wednesday evening and that McCain said: “Yeah, I’m going to have to stay here a little bit longer, take some treatments. I’ll be back.”

In a statement on Twitter, his daughter, Meghan McCain, spoke of the shock of the news and the anxiety over what happens next. “My love for my father is boundless and like any daughter I cannot and do not wish to be in a world without him. I have faith that those days remain far away,” she said.

As word spread of his diagnosis, presidents past and present along with McCain’s current and former Senate colleagues offered support in an outpouring rarely seen in Washington.

“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon,” President Donald Trump said.

Barack Obama, who dashed McCain’s dreams of the presidency, said in a tweet: “John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”

McCain has a lifetime of near-death experiences — surviving the July 1967 fire and explosion on the USS Forrestal that killed 134 sailors; flying into power lines in Spain; the October 1967 shoot-down of his Navy aircraft and fall into Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi; and 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison.

“The Hanoi Hilton couldn’t break John McCain’s spirit many years ago, so Barbara and I know — with confidence — he and his family will meet this latest battle in his singular life of service with courage and determination,” said former President George H.W. Bush.

Politics aside, McCain and Bill Clinton developed a strong friendship, and the former president said: “As he’s shown his entire life, don’t bet against John McCain. Best wishes to him for a swift recovery.”

The junior senator from Arizona, Republican Jeff Flake, said Thursday that McCain told him about his tumor only at the end of a telephone conversation, saying he was “feeling fine, but I might have some chemotherapy in my future.” Flake said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that his colleague is “optimistic, obviously. He’s John McCain. That’s what we’d expect.”

In the past, McCain had been treated for melanoma, but a primary tumor is unrelated. Doctors said McCain is recovering from his surgery “amazingly well” and his underlying health is excellent.

With his irascible grin and fighter-pilot moxie, McCain was elected to the Senate from Arizona six times, most recently last year, but twice thwarted in seeking the presidency.

An upstart presidential bid in 2000 didn’t last long. Eight years later, he fought back from the brink of defeat to win the GOP nomination, only to be overpowered by Obama. McCain chose a little-known Alaska governor as his running mate in that race, and helped turn Sarah Palin into a national political figure.

After losing to Obama in an electoral landslide, McCain returned to the Senate, determined not to be defined by a failed presidential campaign. And when Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, McCain embraced his new job as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, eager to play a big role “in defeating the forces of radical Islam that want to destroy America.”

[“Source-denverpost”]

 

N.C. cancer patients’ lives are at stake if Senate doesn’t act this week

Image result for N.C. cancer patients’ lives are at stake if Senate doesn’t act this week

Cancer patients increasingly take pills for their treatment rather than injections. But insurance rules make them far more expensive. Diedra Laird 2015 file photo

A cancer diagnosis is one of the most disrupting and frightening experiences a person can go through. I know because it happened to me just last year.

I live with two forms of blood cancer – myelodysplastic syndrome and myelofibrosis. I am also one of the fortunate ones. Ongoing treatment has so far been successful in keeping the cancer in check, but I live with the reality that my body will stop responding so positively and I will need a new treatment game plan.

And unless the North Carolina Senate acts this week on legislation bringing fairness to cancer health coverage, I will also continue living with the reality that I might not be able to afford the next treatment I need, even though I have health insurance.

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For many years, intravenous (IV) delivery was the primary method for administering the medicines used to treat cancer, but these days, many of the frontline cancer treatments are in pill form – used in conjunction with injectable or IV therapies, or even in place of them.

In fact, well over one-third of the anti-cancer medications approved by the Food & Drug Administration over the last two years are in pill form. For many cancers, the most effective and appropriate form of treatment comes in a pill, and for some cancers, such as chronic myeloid leukemia, an oral therapy is the only available treatment option.

Despite the need for oral anti-cancer medications, some health plans in North Carolina require patients to pay a large sum for them, often in the thousands of dollars, as opposed to the more reasonable fixed copay charge for IV treatments. The high costs make it difficult and often impossible for cancer patients to get the therapies their doctors prescribe. Without those prescribed therapies the prospects for continued life are extremely limited.

The sobering reality is that cancer is the leading cause of death in our state, with nearly 57,000 North Carolinians diagnosed each year. And yet, North Carolina is one of only seven states that hasn’t enacted legislation requiring health insurers to cover oral anti-cancer medications in the same way they cover injectable or IV chemotherapy.

The state House passed such legislation – known as the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act (HB 206) – this year and during the past two legislative sessions, yet it has never gotten a hearing in the Senate.

With the clock ticking down on this year’s session, time is of the essence for the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act and for the many North Carolinians that it would help. I hope senators will finally listen to our voices and allow the legislation to move forward.

Health insurance is a pool we all pay into so that we can afford care if or when we need it. No North Carolinian should have to forego the necessary treatment prescribed by their doctor because insurers do not cover oral anti-cancer medications in a fair way. It’s time to bring insurance policies in line with modern medicine – and in line with the rest of the country – and make cancer care fair in North Carolina.

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