April 1st, 2008
05:00 PM ET

Senator John McCain, melanoma, and me

In 1995, as a 20-year-old sophomore in college having the time of my life, I got the call that rocked my world.  More like the message on my answering machine, since I was in Sociology 101 when the nurse called.  It sounded something like this (imagine frantic nasally voice here): 

"Ms. Jones, this is the doctor's office.  You need to call us immediately.  We have been calling all morning and can't get in touch with you.  You have cancer so please call us at xxx..." You get the drift. 

Now, aside from what I considered the worst possible way to tell someone they had cancer, I knew I had a long road ahead.  Four days later I was sitting in the surgeon's office listening to what he would do to me...

With a stage II melanoma, you have to remove enough skin and tissue to ensure that loose cancer cells don't get into your system.  Sounds a little gross, and it is.  That's why the big scars.

Much like Sen. John McCain, I too have had more scars than I can count.  I stopped counting at 45 biopsies a few years ago.
Melanoma is unlike other cancers in that chemotherapy and radiation really don't do much to help.  Remission isn't a word that I heard from my doctors.

Thirteen years later, I still get biopsies (had one 3 weeks ago) and still have that fear of getting it again.  I get checked by a doctor every 6 months. 

But, even with those fears, and after major surgery and recovery time, I graduated college in four years and now work full time.
I was a little taken aback by the NY Times story on Sen. McCain's melanoma.  I worried the melanoma would be used as a scare tactic.  I think his health should be a point of discussion when talking about who would be best to lead the country. But I also feel that same rule should apply to Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama.
On the show tonight, Dr Gupta will talk more about melanoma, as well as other aspects of Sen McCain's health.  I hope you'll tune in, and let us know what you think.

– Kay Jones, 360° Booker

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: AC360° Staff • John McCain • Melanoma
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Maggie C

    Personally, I think McCain's health is an important factor, as it would be for any presidential candidate. When taken into account with age, family history and his previous health problems, ( even as a child) the prognosis could be quite suspect.

    Remember, this is someone who, upon death in office, would be replaced by someone of his choosing. This person too, should be as transparent as the man he replaces. We will have no vote on McCain's VP, should he be elected.

    I have the greatest respect for McCain and his service to our country at a great expense to him. This is not enough however, to declare him as a perfect candidate, especially during war, or the threat of war. Eisenhower won an election because of his military experience, but the choice with N. Korea was not his.

    Maggie C

    April 2, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  2. Phe

    First of all we went over there for one reason........to defend against Sept.11th. If we haven't done that yet, we won't do that.

    To go out quicky as we came would be just as well. The time to move out was yesterday.

    April 2, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Tina

    McCain's health doesn't scare me. It scares me that we are spending so much money over there. I think , we are fools to be spending money when we are at such a low place. If they want to get us when we are weak, they could. They know what they are doing, we don't.

    I say, keep a few post there and get out. We have plenty of jobs for the service men right here on our soil. No need to extend our stay there. Get out, already.

    Everybody wants to rule the world. Let's see, we have our own little world that is not doing so good at the moment. Come Home.

    April 2, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  4. Slater

    I like that irrespective of his other faults, most people seem to feel health is not an issue that should preclude him from the presidency.

    I concur. And I also concur that we cannot walk away from Iraq. We must make it crystal clear that we are preparing to move out, and do it gradually. We absolutely need not send any other troops there. Now more than ever we need our troops to protect and regulate our borders. That is what our military was designed to do, and we are paying the price with everything from an over-populous of illegal immigrants, failure of our economy and it has caused severe resentment between the cultures of this country. Unfortunately, our current president has gotten us into quite a mess with that region of the world, and managed to throw salt in an already open wound here on our home soil.

    My strong feeling on the issue of the presidency is that whomever gets elected, they will be a four year president. Because he is a "liberal" republican, perhaps he can sweep up some of the mess Bush made and pave a smoother road for the next president. I feel the party that made the mess should clean it up, and who better than a person so committed to our freedom and liberty? Perhaps he may even make a decision that is in the best interest of the country where the military is concerned.

    April 2, 2008 at 11:54 am |
  5. Jacqui Chan

    Although melanoma is the most serious of the skin cancers, you should be fine as long as you have a good dermatologist and stay on top of this. Good luck and take good care!
    Jacqui Chan

    April 2, 2008 at 3:36 am |
  6. Iresha

    I saw a documentary on how Senator Mccain was tortured. He had multiple broken bones that were not taken care of for a long time.
    My biggest worry is that if a person was not treated appropriately, the chances that a person will be left with severe chronic pain is very very high.
    Do we have the right to know whether Senator Mccain is on strong narcotics for pain control.
    How will that affect his judgement – especially on a day that he has more pain than on a 'normal' day.

    April 2, 2008 at 1:44 am |
  7. Irwin Berman, MD

    With or without McCain's recent “senior moments”, his history suggests that the public has a right to know whether Mr. McCain currently has a brain metastasis from this notoriously capricious and unpredictable cancer.

    If John McCain reaches the elections without transparency on the question of the current extent of his melanoma (which he surely knows), America will have been gravely disserved. If he dies in office, either with or from a brain metastasis, and this evidence was not explicit in advance of the election, the implications are simply terrible.

    A simple-but critically important- question for Mr. McCain might yield a wealth of information (or evasion), namely: “When is the last time that you have had any kind of brain scan”?

    April 2, 2008 at 12:25 am |
  8. carrieinVa

    Kay, Thanks for sharing.Today we got results of a biopsy on my husdband, 51 cancer of the palate.I think cancer is a scary word. I think health is a big word that should include more than just disease but attitude, ability to handle stress, genetics and support. I am concerned about the age prejudice. In other cultures age is admired and respected. I think MCCains ability to survive torture and thrive is the most telling indicator of both his physical & mental health

    April 1, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  9. Annie Kate


    That was a horrible way to find out you had cancer. I hope someone coached the nurse that did that on what not to say on voice messages!

    My uncle had melanoma when he was about 40 or so in his back and it had spread. However, after surgery and I think some chemo he never had anymore and he died at the age of 80 in his sleep.

    I hope you continue to do well and not see any reoccurences. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 1, 2008 at 9:31 pm |
  10. EJ - Ohio

    Actually I went to look up the article and it says that blacks are more likely to die from it. Not Latinos. I believe it is 4x times deadlier in blacks than whites (which at the time I was surprised to hear). Just following up to correct the info.

    April 1, 2008 at 8:58 pm |
  11. Paris

    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Joseph, John McCain is 100% right on the WAR.
    you just can’t walk away from Iraq.
    We must finish the job. What would the world think of us if we leave now and let civilian be killed.
    If we leave now we will end up with genocide in Iraq.

    April 1, 2008 at 8:29 pm |
  12. EJ - Ohio

    I read last year that although blacks and latinos are less likely to get this type of cancer they are the most likely to die from it. I believe they find out too late and/or maybe are not suspecting this type of cancer.

    April 1, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  13. Genevieve M, TX

    Thank you for sharing your story and I hope you continue to stay well.

    April 1, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  14. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    There are a lot of reasons not to vote for John McCain, among them being his position on the Iraq war and his ignorance on how the economy operates, but his health should not be an issue.

    All of the candidates should have physical examinations to determine their physical and mental ability to lead this nation, but using a possible health problem which may never happen is pointless. Any candidate, at any time, has a chance of dying. We all do.

    April 1, 2008 at 5:34 pm |