A Sensitive Subject

The only people I have any sympathy for right now are Senator McCain’s kids. Bottom line: they’re going to lose their father. I don’t know what their relationship with their father is really like, once you get behind the obligatory political facade, but you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Per the New York Times, the median survival for glioblastoma is 12 to 18 months. That means the odds are 50-50 that they’re going to lose him before the 2018 elections. No matter how they feel about him, that’s not something anyone can skate past. It will mess up their lives.

And nobody beats glioblastoma. With all due respect to Presidents Trump and Obama, saying “He’s a fighter,” and suggesting that McCain can stare down cancer is a slap in the face to everyone who’s died of cancer.

I know my biases are showing here, but I don’t give a shit. I lost my father to cancer less than a year ago, and to hear anyone implying that he’d still be around if he’d been stronger makes me want to run amok with a baseball bat.

Bluntly, what kept Dad alive was medicine. Medicare, in particular. Yes, a positive attitude and doing what he loved helped. But it was radiation treatments, chemo, and a whole slew of medical personnel that made the difference.

So to have McCain come to the Senate practically straight from the hospital and vote to continue debate on a plan to take medical care–the same medical care that’s keeping him alive–away from millions of people is following up the insult with injury.

I disagree with him politically, but I’m happy to agree that Senator McCain’s done many things worthy of respect. His vote Tuesday is not one of them. Nor does his “no” vote on the “skinny repeal” make up for it.

Unless he publicly and explicitly commits to vote against any proposal that will raise premiums or strip insurance coverage from even one person–and then follows through on that pledge–all the pretty words he gave us Tuesday are meaningless.

I’ve lost a lot of respect for McCain this week, but even so, I sincerely wish him a long life. For his children’s sake. And, I hope, for every child who will gain or keep medical insurance as the result of Senator McCain’s actions from now on.

11 thoughts on “A Sensitive Subject

  1. Casey I so agree with your sentiments and comments on today’s blog. As a friend of your father and mother I will not pretend I know how you as a son felt when losing your father. But, I as a friend of his lost a lot. And I am also disappointed by McCain and his vote this week. I do not wish him harm or ill health, but I do wish he would have taken the opportunity to have made a point about healthcare costs and access with his unique place given his current state.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dan. Your sympathy is appreciated.

      And maybe McCain will have a change of heart once he has a little more time to think about where he is and where his fellow Americans–the ones he fought to protect–are.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m hoping so, Casey. Your post reached me and I have no words. Yours and Dan’s are far better.

    I feel the same as you. McCain is at bottom a decent human being, but I’m bewildered by his vote.


    • Thank you.

      His vote, to be blunt, is in line with the past seven months of viewing Trump with alarm but continuing to vote the party line. If an incurable disease isn’t enough to help him look past the party to the people, then I can’t imagine what will.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. McCain’s had a long run; 80 isn’t old, but it’s an age when his children should be emotionally prepared to lose him in the foreseeable future. Doesn’t make it easy, but when I think of the people who lose parents at a much younger age, from treatable diseases, it kind of throws things into perspective.

    Standing ovation for calling out that “fight cancer” crap. I don’t know what people are supposed to do when they’re told to fight. Put on a happy face? Make “fighting” their disease a second job? (If people feel helped by support groups, Bernie Siegel tapes, visualization, or whatever, I’m all for it, but some people aren’t joiners [raises hand] and some people probably have other things they want to do with what may be limited remaining time.)

    I don’t know what it is about cancer particularly that brings this out in people though I’ve had my thoughts. Perhaps because it was THE nightmare disease for a long time — AIDS probably eclipsed it for a while there — and seemed like an evil, random attacker. But what diseases don’t? Everyone wants to see someone else “beat” the disease because that means they have to be less afraid themselves. And Goddess knows I’m happy for friends of mine who did develop cancer and insisted on exploring all options, changing doctors, etc., who went into remission or bought another good decade. But so much is luck.

    I flash on what I remember reading about George Sheehan, the “running doctor” who had a column in Runner’s World for years. He developed prostate cancer of what must have been an atypically aggressive sort, while he was still churning out marathons. The chemo arrested the spread that had gone to his bones but crapped him up for running. So he would do the chemo until they had a state of arrest, the lesions more or less stunned and not progressing, go off the drug and run races till scans showed the cancer was moving again, and take some more drugs. He went through a few cycles of this knowing his overall lifespan would be shorter but he had a life to live outside of “beating” cancer. I always respected that. — And yes, Senator McCain, the man had medical care and the ability to get those treatments and scans, so that he could make that choice. Let’s all have the same thing, how about?


    • Being emotionally prepared because of his age is one thing. Being faced with a date is quite another. Your mileage and experience may differ from mine–probably does, in fact–and this may be an area where we’ll have to agree to disagree.

      So much is luck, yes, and people generally want to be in control. So there’s that. And I think there’s an element of “Why the hell haven’t we cured cancer yet?” at work. Presenting it as a single disease may be a bit of a mistake from an emotional perspective. Breast cancer is not prostate cancer is not glioblastoma is not… A cure for one (or an immunization against one or…) will not be effective against all. And calling them all “cancer” and promoting a singular fight against “cancer” can, IMNSHO, induce a certain amount of resentment.

      Sounds like George Sheehan and Dad had some shared ideas. Dad didn’t go off his treatments, but he did say that living longer would be pointless if he couldn’t write, spend time with his family, go to ballgames, and all of the other things he loved to do; the things that had nothing overt to do with “fighting cancer”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Props to your Dad. I think the mileage has to vary between us, and I realized that after I posted — apologies if I was a bit of an asshole on that point. Thing is, my mother was/is (I honestly don’t know at this point) such a horrible, abusive human being that I had to write her out of my life to save my sanity over a decade ago. And my father, not surprisingly, got out while I was still in my early 20s, but cut me off at the same time and apparently spent the next 30 years telling people “I have no daughter.” Until he had a stroke and asked his second wife to look me up. There was nothing left there. He died of esophageal cancer two years later — five days after my ex husband, a childlike, heartbreaking disaster of a man who had no one left at the end but me. Color me numb. I had already lost my father, though I felt for my stepmother, a nice lady whom I correspond with regularly. A long explanation, sorry… just that I have blind spots on the topic of parents and literally no frame of reference for mourning them.


  4. Well said, Casey. I’m glad that Senator McCain ultimately broke with his party and killed the “skinny repeal” last night (even if it wasn’t exactly for the right reasons … I’ll take the vote no matter the motives). When you hear Senator McConnell say “This is clearly a disappointing moment,” you know that the American people won something.

    It’s not over, I know, but for now, we can get some rest and go back to the other important things going on in Washington, like watching new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci lose his sh#t over the leakers.

    Liked by 1 person

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