Which Politicians Had Terrible Diseases Like John McCain?

Ever since publicly announcing his brain cancer diagnosis in July 2017, Arizona Senator John McCain has waged yet another major battle.

John McCain

John McCain in Hanover, N.H., in 1999.ampshire. | Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images

The Vietnam War veteran survived his harrowing time as a prisoner of war, but he’s done fighting now. On Aug. 24, 2018, he announced his intention to stop medical treatment for glioblastoma. McCain is a three-time melanoma survivor, but the glioblastoma is tougher to treat.

What is glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer that can trigger nausea, vomiting, headaches, and seizures, according to the Mayo Clinic. McCain had successful surgery to remove part of his tumor and chose to turn down more surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy to treat his disease. Even with the best treatments, only 10% of patients are expected to live beyond five years.

These politicians had terrible diseases like John McCain

John McCain’s cancer diagnosis brought well-wishes from Democrats and Republicans in 2017. It’s not the first time a notable politician suffered from a disease.

Grover Cleveland, mouth cancer

The 22nd and 24th president dealt with obesity, gout, and kidney inflammation for most of his life. A mouth tumor led to him having part of his jaw and palate removed during a secret surgery. He recovered from the surgery and lived until 1908.

John F. Kennedy, Addison’s disease

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy had a multitude of medical problems. | National Archive/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Kennedy learned he had Addison’s disease, which impacts the adrenal glands, when he was 30 years old. He also had colitis and a bad back, and a drug cocktail was the only thing that helped him deal with and overcome the pain.

Ted Kennedy, glioblastoma

Like John McCain, Ted Kennedy had the same type of aggressive brain cancer. He died from the disease in 2009 at age 77.

John Kerry, prostate cancer

John Kerry, a former senator, Secretary of State, and one-time presidential candidate, had successful surgery for his prostate cancer in 2003.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, polio


Polio didn’t impact Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ability to govern. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

FDR’s polio is probably the most well-known case among the politicians who had terrible diseases. Polio caused partial leg paralysis, and he struggled to walk on his own.

Arlen Specter, Hodgkin’s lymphoma

The former Pennsylvania senator received a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis in 2005. He continued serving in Congress while being treated. He died in 2012.

John McCain’s legacy

U.S. Senator John McCain

John McCain on the job. | Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

Even though the American politics are as contentious as ever, John McCain has a lot of friends on both sides of the aisle. He counts George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden as close friends. All three and many more Washington insiders will surely attend McCain’s funeral, whenever that may be, but we know one person who won’t be there — President Donald Trump. McCain doesn’t care for Trump’s brand of politics and doesn’t want him at his funeral.

McCain has a complicated legacy and a few regrets along the way, but that’s to be expected after serving in Congress starting in 1982.