McCain vows to return to Senate after brain cancer diagnosis; lauded as Arizona icon

PHOENIX – Sen. John McCain on Thursday vowed to be “be back soon” in Washington, even as former presidents and longtime Arizona residents sent messages of support after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

“I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support — unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!” McCain tweeted.

McCain’s office, through his doctors at the Mayo Clinic, announced Wednesday the Republican senator has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer.

McCain rested at his Phoenix home with family as people across the Valley, including well wishers who dropped off flowers at his Phoenix office, discussed how the six-term senator is as deeply linked to Arizona as the Grand Canyon.

“Honestly, he’s an icon,” resident Kaity Klonowski said, adding that he’s “always been a part of Arizona culture.”

“Whether or not you agree with his political opinions, you have to respect that he is a great man who has done so much for our country,” Klonowski said.

McCain, who has served in public office for more than three decades, has twice sought the nation’s highest office, including in 2008, when Barack Obama captured the presidency.

“He stands alone with Barry Goldwater as two of the greatest politicians and advocates for Arizona and the military,” Arizona resident Steven Isham said. “He has served with distinction in every environment of his life. There will be a deep void if he does not come back.”

Goldwater served as Arizona’s senator for five terms and was the Republican nominee for president in 1964. Historians credit Goldwater with revitalizing the conservative movement in the 1960s.

Steve Roman, who is a partner at First Strategic, the public relations firm that worked on McCain’s 2008 campaign, said McCain shares Goldwater’s political decisiveness.

“Goldwater was a maverick,” Roman said. “Senator McCain clearly is a maverick too. He continued the tradition of very strong senators from Arizona.”

McCain’s greatest accomplishments have been his work for Native American communities, the military and fiscal conservation, Roman said.

“There have been very few senators who have had the impact nationally that he has had,” Roman said.

McCain’s political career comes from his love for the U.S., which he has been serving since his youth in the Navy.

“He is a hero, a patriot,” Roman said.

Phoenix Veterans said McCain, who withstood torture and pressure to betray his country as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, is used to battle.

“He’s a fighter,” said Richard Roberts, who retired from the Navy.

Catherine Videan, a hospice-thrift shop volunteer, said his strength as a veteran will help.

“He was in a prison camp and he survived that,” Videan said. “So maybe he will get to survive this incredibly difficult time.”

McCain in 2014 gave a leadership award in his name to the Ivy Foundation for its work with glioblastoma, the type of cancer he now has to fight.

“Having a positive attitude makes the patient’s quality of life better and the process better,” Catherine Ivy, founder and president of the brain research center said of patients like McCain.

“It’s a tough thing. You have to decide if you’re going to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to take this on, and try to cure it.’ Or ‘I don’t want to go down that route.’ You know just, if it’s my time, it’s my time. That’s a very personal choice, and I’m sure whatever he decides, it will be very courageous and best for him,’ “ Ivy said.

Reporter Chris Benincaso contributed to this story.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sources in the Public Insight Network informed the reporting in this story through a partnership with the Cronkite PIN Bureau.