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Jimmy Carter On Brain Cancer: “At Ease With Whatever Comes”

Former President Jimmy Carter spoke about his disease Thursday in Atlanta.
Former President Jimmy Carter spoke about his disease Thursday in Atlanta.

Former President Jimmy Carter said he is at peace with his cancer diagnosis because his fate rests in God’s hands.

Carter said that doctors discovered cancer on his brain; the 90-year-old will soon begin radiation treatments to prevent it from spreading further.

During a news conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta Thursday, Carter told reporters there are four melanoma spots on his brain that were discovered after another cancerous mass had been removed from his liver during a procedure on Aug. 3.

Doctors had suspected that the liver cancer had originated in another part of his body when they spotted the melanoma, about “two millimeters” in size.

“I just thought that I had a few weeks left, but I was surprisingly at ease,” Carter said. “I’ve had a wonderful life, and I’ve had thousands of friends and I’ve had an exciting, adventurous and gratifying existence. Now, I feel it’s in the hands of God and I’ll be prepared for anything that comes.”

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization President and CEO J. Donald Schumacher said he appreciates Carter’s honesty and hopes he experiences the benefits of palliative medicine; care designed to relieve the pain, symptoms and stress caused by serious illness and curative treatments.

“As he always did as president and post-president, he acts as an incredible teacher to the American public,” Schumacher told Life Matters Media. “I agree with him that when you’re at peace with your life and you’re getting good pain and symptom management, you’re able to relax into whatever the process brings. He’s letting the public know that this is something everyone has to deal with and not to be scared of it. Patients can receive very comprehensive pain and symptom management through palliative care, even along with aggressive therapies.”

Reaction to Carter’s press conference was swift on Twitter, as many Americans praised the former president for his forthrightness in addressing a difficult diagnosis. “President Carter just taught us all a lesson in facing up to our own mortality,” tweeted David Axelrod, the chief campaign advisor to President Obama and current Director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

Final Wish

Carter said his final wish is to see the last Guinea worm die, a goal he has worked towards for nearly 30 years with the Carter Center. The World Health Organization defines it as a parasite that migrates through a victim’s subcutaneous tissues causing severe pain, especially when it occurs near joints. The worm eventually emerges (from the feet in most of the cases).

In 1986, the disease afflicted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. The incidence of Guinea worm has been reduced by more than 99 percent to 126 cases in 2014, according to the center.