PHOENIX — Throughout the past year, Senator John McCain fought a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. He was diagnosed with the disease in July of 2017.
Here’s a closer look at McCain’s cancer history and how he battled it.
Initially they thought it was a blood clot, until his doctor told him to come back. Arizona’ s senior senator John McCain was heading up north last July after a routine physical in Phoenix when his doctor told him over the phone that what they found was very serious.
Regardless of how grim it was, McCain wanted to hear the truth.
In the HBO McCain Documentary, McCain talks about his diagnosis, calling it a very vicious disease.
After an emergency craniotomy, the 81-year-old senator learned his medical team uncovered a brain tumor, an aggressive cancer known as glioblastoma.
McCain told us at the time, the prognosis was very poor and he might survive only 14 more months.
In late July, two weeks after his diagnosis, McCain returned to the Senate, but his battle wasn’t over.
“The most common side effect of this regiment is fatigue,” said Dr. Nader Sanai, Barrow Neurological Institute, in an interview with 12 News.
“That's what most patients complain about,” he said. “Fatigue can peak during the weeks where you're getting the radiation.”
Following his diagnosis last summer, a neurosurgical oncologist from the Barrow Neurological Institute told us about the typical treatment for patients battling glioblastoma, a combination of a chemotherapy pill and radiation therapy. It lasts about six weeks and most don't go back to work until after the treatment is completed.
“For many patients, they’ll regain their energy levels several weeks to months after the radiation is completed,” said Dr. Sanai.
Typically, patients have regular blood tests to monitor their white blood cell count, which can be killed by the chemo.
In August, McCain sounded upbeat about his treatment during this Facebook Live.
“I'm very happy at the way that it's going,” he said. “Obviously, this is a tough struggle, but I am hard at work.”
By Dec. 13, 12 News learned Senator John McCain was in the hospital for what his office called normal side effects from his ongoing cancer therapy. He was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical center outside Washington D.C.
In the statement released by his office, it explained, “He remained grateful to his physicians for their excellent care and his friends and supporters for their encouragement and good wishes.”
Senator McCain’s office also said he was looking forward to returning to work as soon as possible.
On Feb. 5, McCain’s daughter Meghan said her father had made an incredible recovery in his battle with brain cancer, telling late night host Stephen Colbert, her dad had a rough time at Christmas, but then he made a “really crazy, amazing recovery.” She said she shouldn’t be surprised, because he’s so resilient.
In April, 12 News was notified Senator McCain was recovering after undergoing surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. McCain’s office said an intestinal infection, related to what’s known as diverticulitis sent him to the hospital in the first place. The infection required surgery.
“Once the immune system is down, you are prone to get more infections,” said Dr. Sushovan Guha of Banner University Medical Center. “The infection actually, you know, gets more and more vicious."
At the time, McCain’s daughter Meghan explained her father was in stable condition, posting a photo of the two of them together on Twitter, saying, “he continues to inspire me every day with his intense grit and determination.”
On June 13, she opened up about her father’s battle with brain cancer. In an interview with KTAR, she shared an update on him health, saying her father was doing good, strong, walking and talking.
Senator McCain had already been back in Arizona for a few months receiving treatment.
The entire time, he continued to weigh-in on political issues through social media. This was the first update we received on McCain’s health since he underwent the surgery for an intestinal infection.
The Maverick’s HBO documentary aired on Memorial Day. Leading up to its release, McCain’s first chief of staff Grant Woods expressed his admiration for McCain and how he handled the situation he was in.
“His spirits have improved, and I think he’s actually better,” he said. “Having said that, you know it’s obviously a very tough situation.”
“It’s a terrible disease and a tough prognosis but having said that, this guy is an amazing guy,” said Woods. “He’s just a real lesson and role model for all of us on how to face the end of life.”
All throughout McCain’s health battle, he never backed down.