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John McCain Says Cancer Just One More Fight to Wage

Aired August 18, 2000 - 4:11 p.m. ET


GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to a live picture outside Senator John McCain's home in Phoenix, Arizona. He is approaching the microphones with his wife, Cindy. McCain has been diagnosed with two spots of melanoma on his temple and arm. But doctors, we are told, consider those two spots to be separate and distinct and operable. We're told it is very likely McCain will have surgery on Saturday at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

Here now is Senator McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We are right here with sunscreen for all and...-


J. MCCAIN: ... and water also for anyone who feels a bit dehydrated. First, I would like to apologize to some of our friends in the media that I haven't been more available. And it's because I didn't have anything to say while we were going through the assessment and evaluation. As you know, tomorrow morning I will have surgery. And the -- all that's been described to you by the folks at Mayo.

So I'm very confident. The doctors are very confident. And we will have this thing done very quickly. And in a very short period of time, I will back on the Straight Talk Express campaigning for our candidates around the country, as well as for Governor Bush. We expect it to be relatively short, relatively simple. And, as I say, I'm very confident.

I've been in a number of fights in my life. And this is just another one. And I'm sure we will be able to prevail. I would like to thank all the people who have called and written us from around the country and e-mailed us. So I thank you all very much for all of your expressions of optimism to us. And I am, again, very confident that everything is going to be just fine. And it's nice to see some of my communist friends here from the Straight Talk Express and our failed presidential campaigns.

It's nice to see all of you again.

QUESTION: Senator, how long is the surgery going to take? Is it going to be...

J. MCCAIN: I think it's a couple of hours is what they think.

QUESTION: Inpatient, outpatient?

J. MCCAIN: It's inpatient surgery, yes.

QUESTION: So you will spend the night.

J. MCCAIN: Tomorrow morning I -- yes, probably spend the night, yes.

QUESTION: Is it general anesthesia or is it local?

J. MCCAIN: It's general. And I would like to mention that, you know, I -- the doctors are available to answer a lot of these medical questions. I'm the guinea pig, not the...

QUESTION: Senator, is there any treatment process after tomorrow? Or after tomorrow, are you done?

J. MCCAIN: I think after tomorrow, we are done. But it would probably depend on the outcome of, you know, of the operation itself.

QUESTION: This a real scare for you and your family, yes?


J. MCCAIN: You know, it's a challenge. You know, it's something that happens. In fact, again, my commercial for sunscreen and hats is -- continues. And those of us who have very fair skin obviously have to be more careful. But, you know, it's something that we are very confident I'll overcome. And I'm eager to get back on the campaign trail, which I'm sure we will be able to do very soon.

QUESTION: Senator, had you planned to release your diagnosis of cancer on Wednesday during the middle of the Democratic Convention, or was the news leaked by the Bush camp, as has been alleged?

J. MCCAIN: I don't know who leaked that information, and I'm sorry that it did. The reason why we were holding off on giving out the information was simply because we were going to wait until today, when we'd completed all the tests.

I'm very apologetic that it leaked out in, I think, improper fashion. But we certainly didn't have anything to do with that. I wish it hadn't happened on Wednesday, and one reason is, is Joe Lieberman is a very dear friend of mine and I don't think anything should have detracted from his moment. He's a lovely man.

QUESTION: Senator, have they told you anything about the possibility that the cancer might have spread elsewhere throughout the body?

J. MCCAIN: Well, there's always, you know, those possibilities. But they're very confident they can take care of it with this operation.

But again, the doctors are going to be available after the procedure is performed tomorrow, as you know.


QUESTION: ... a lot of people waiting for you to be out this time.

J. MCCAIN: And we'll be there.

QUESTION: When -- realistically, when can we...

J. MCCAIN: Realistic, around Labor Day. Be a -- probably a week before.


J. MCCAIN: Yes, we'll be on the road.

QUESTION: Senator, were you relieved to get this word today? How do you feel?

J. MCCAIN: Well, of course, I'm relieved that the doctors are confident. You know, you never know in this thing. The doctors are confident.

Of course, Mayo is really a premier installation. We're very proud to have them here in Arizona.

And so, I'm very optimistic and very glad to know, you know, what the procedures are and all that. I'm not very smart about these things, so it took them about a half hour to explain them to me.


QUESTION: Your advice to people who may be seeing this, and maybe in the next week or two, will go to a dermatologist because of you?

J. MCCAIN: I hope that anyone who has any discoloration or any marking on their body that looks unusual would go see a doctor about it.

I don't like to revisit this issue, but we had a wonderful congressman from the state of New Mexico, who a couple of years ago, as we all know, died from this disease, and that was -- it's all got to do with early detection.


J. MCCAIN: So, no, it had nothing to do with that, that I know of.


QUESTION: Mrs. McCain, this has been -- your husband has been putting a brave face on it, but it has to have been a stressful couple of days for you. C. MCCAIN: Well, like anything it's a hurdle that you have to jump over. We had a wonderful meeting today with the doctors. I feel confident tomorrow will be a good day with good news. And like everything, our role in this, and my role particularly, is to make sure our children are OK.

J. MCCAIN: Late last night, I did get up, and I saw her thumbing through the insurance policies.


QUESTION: Senator McCain, obviously, the doctors can never know for sure, but have they given you indications that it has not spread? Can you talk about that?

J. MCCAIN: Well, the operation will fully determine that, but they are confident that they will be able to, through this procedure. But, you know, I mean, you're never positive about anything. But they're confident, and we're confident as well.


QUESTION: Yes, Senator, why are they doing a lymph node dissection (OFF-MIKE) A lymph node dissection?

J. MCCAIN: I think you'd have to talk to them about it. I think it's a precaution to make sure that it hasn't spread. But they're very, as I say, they're very confident and we're very confident.


QUESTION: Can you tell us when you actually got the melanoma diagnosis? And what has run through your mind from then until, I guess, today when you got the final...

J. MCCAIN: Sure. I had the -- I had a biopsy done on this same place a couple years ago and it was benign. And by the way, that was something else that was not accurately reported. It was benign.

Then, about three weeks ago, the Capitol Hill physician said, you ought to have that checked again. I went to Bethesda and had it biopsied, and they called me last Thursday morning, which just happened to coincide with my beginning to campaign with Governor Bush, as you know, and said it's -- that this is malignant and that we're going to have to have it taken care of. So we then made plans for all these tests and checks on it.

So it was a week ago Thursday morning that I was notified by the people at Bethesda that had done the biopsy, and then we had all the materials sent out to the folks here at Mayo and it went from there.

QUESTION: And like the thousands of people who are diagnosed with a melanoma, what ran through your mind when you got that diagnosis?

J. MCCAIN: I think, you know, you're of course always surprised, but I also think that most Americans should be confident that early detection means a very, very high probability that everything's fine. I had another malignant melanoma taken off my shoulder, and it's been fine. The whole key is early detection. I think it's like any other cancer, early detection.

And I can only take two more.

Yes, sir?

I'm sorry, how are you? Glad to see you.


QUESTION: Senator, how long were you in...

J. MCCAIN: We spent about an hour talking with, you know, the people on the team that are doing the whole procedure.

QUESTION: How many tests did you have to actually go through? We had what looked like a laundry list of things you had to do yesterday.

J. MCCAIN: You know, the thing about the folks at Mayo, and any good institution, they want to make sure that there's nothing else wrong with you, that there's nothing, you know, and so we went through a battery of tests. I feel very much like a laboratory animal.

QUESTION: Senator, can we count on you wearing a Diamondback's hat along the campaign trail...

J. MCCAIN: Hopefully all the way to the World Series.

QUESTION: Hey, Senator, your birthday's coming up here in about, what 10 days?

J. MCCAIN: Yes sir.

QUESTION: What would you like for your birthday this year?

J. MCCAIN: Well, I think it's pretty obvious, Lou, that I'd love to have a complete clean bill of health, and I'm very confident that we will.

Again, I'd to just apologize to your friends in the media who've had to stand out here, but I really didn't have anything to tell you until we had completed these tests and what they were going to do. Otherwise, it would have been pure speculation. And I do apologize to you for having to wait out here in this heat, and definitely I hope you were wearing sun screen during that period of time.

QUESTION: Is yours on?

J. MCCAIN: Yes, yes, indeed.


J. MCCAIN: That's for everybody who's been standing out here. (CROSSTALK)

J. MCCAIN: But our most precious asset in Arizona, the water, is there, too.

QUESTION: Mrs. McCain, I saw you yesterday, you had Meghan out with her learner's permit.


QUESTION: Have you been trying to keep up the idea of a normal family routine while all this has been, sort of, hanging in the background?

C. MCCAIN: There's been nothing to keep up. We have a normal family routine. And that she -- that was just part of what we -- she needs to learn to drive and keep driving until she gets her driver's license.

RANDALL: Senator John McCain of Arizona with his wife, Cindy. McCain has announced he will have surgery for melanoma at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona tomorrow. He says he and his doctors are very confident. McCain calls this just another fight to wage.



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