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McCain 'not worried' about his disease, wife says

Senator likely to undergo surgery Saturday, sources say

PHOENIX (CNN) -- Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is expected to undergo surgery Saturday because of a recurrence of skin cancer, is "not worried" and "has faced bigger challenges," said his wife Cindy.

In this story:

Senator's wife says attention 'unnecessary'

'Wear sunscreen. I'm dead serious'

Best wishes from colleagues

Most serious form of skin cancer

"We had a great meeting with the doctors today," Mrs. McCain told CNN in a telephone interview she initiated from their home Thursday after the former presidential candidate underwent 3 1/2 hours of tests at the Mayo Clinic in nearby Scottsdale, Arizona.

"We see a great prognosis," she said.

The tests included blood work, chest X-rays, an electrocardiogram, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a CT Scan and an echocardiogram, according to a statement released by McCain's office.

Dermatologists told CNN such tests should help determine how widely and deeply the melanoma cancer has spread.

The potentially fatal cancer on his temple and arm were diagnosed last week, but McCain released medical records in December 1999 that showed a growth on his shoulder in 1993 was diagnosed as melanoma.

At the time the records were released, there had been no signs of a recurrence of the disease for over five years, according to his doctor John Eckstein, of the Mayo Clinic. "We think he is cured," Dr. Eckstein said.

Though his treatment options are open, sources close to the 63-year-old senator said it's "probable" he will undergo surgery this weekend.

Senator's wife says attention 'unnecessary'

Mrs. McCain said Thursday the McCain family has been preoccupied with other things, including teaching their daughter Meghan to drive.

Meghan just got her learner's permit.

About her own role, Mrs. McCain said, "I'm just trying to keep things normal around the house, because there's no reason why things shouldn't be normal."

One source said the 63-year-old three-term senator was in good spirits: "He's cantankerous, but no more than usual -- in fact, maybe a little less than usual."

In addition to the driving lesson, the McCains fielded calls from friends and went to the movie house to see "Gladiator," but because of its length -- 154 minutes -- they opted for "What Lies Beneath," with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, a half-hour shorter.

Mrs. McCain said the attention her husband's illness has received was "a little unnecessary. This is just one of those hurdles."

She predicted the senator would use the attention to raise awareness about skin cancer, noting that people in Arizona and New Zealand are among the world's populations at highest risk for skin cancer.

'Wear sunscreen. I'm dead serious'

While on the campaign trail last week with former primary rival George W. Bush, McCain was asked about bandages on his face. He mentioned his skin cancer and offered some advice: "Wear sunscreen. I'm dead serious ... or you'll be going under the knife." He noted he is fair-skinned and had "a lot of exposure to the sun when I was very young."

On Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Lieberman offered his prayers and best wishes to McCain.

Cindy McCain
Cindy McCain  

A senior McCain adviser told CNN that the decorated Navy pilot, who spent five-and-a-half years as a war prisoner in Vietnam, is "always a trouper (who) jokes that he's been through a hell of a lot worse before this."

McCain received the diagnosis last Thursday morning, shortly before leaving on a campaign swing with Bush, whom he had challenged in last spring's presidential primaries. He had traveled to Washington the previous week to undergo biopsies on the two growths.

McCain's office released a statement Wednesday providing some details that said the growths -- one on his left temple and another on his left arm -- were discovered during a routine exam and were confirmed to be melanomas after the August 4 biopsies, which were performed at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Best wishes from colleagues

McCain has received calls from Bush, President Clinton, Democratic presidential nominee Vice President Al Gore, fellow Senate Vietnam war hero John Kerry and many others, aides said.

"I know all Americans join Laura and me in wishing John McCain a complete and speedy recovery," Bush said in a statement. "We just came back from a visit to John and Cindy's home and our fondest thoughts are with him and his family. John is a good man and a fighter. He is in our prayers as he battles this illness."

Al Gore, just before accepting the Democratic nomination for president, hailed McCain as "a brave fighter" and said, "I know all Americans are going to be praying for this to turn out for the best."

Senate colleagues Max Cleland and Bob Kerrey -- like McCain both wounded Vietnam war heroes -- extended their best wishes while attending the Democratic convention and Lieberman invoked McCain in his vice presidential nominee acceptance speech as a "straight-talking" Republican."

Most serious form of skin cancer

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer -- potentially deadly if not treated in time, claiming 7,700 lives in the United States each year -- and can quickly spread to other parts of the body.

McCain has canceled campaign events scheduled for this week with several GOP congressional candidates around the country.

McCain returned to Phoenix on Wednesday night after a short vacation with his wife and family on a houseboat in Lake Powell, Arizona.

Correspondent Jonathan Karl contributed to this story.




An explanation of the skin cancers McCain has had, from CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

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Thursday, August 17, 2000


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