US & Canada

Joe Biden comforts John McCain's daughter over cancer

Former US Vice-President Joe Biden awards US Senator John McCain the 2017 Liberty Medal in Philadelphia, USA, in October 2017 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Biden says he is a long-time friend of Mr McCain despite the political divide

Former US Vice-President Joe Biden has offered comfort and advice to Meghan McCain over the health of her father, US Republican Senator John McCain, during a TV talk show.

Mr Biden's son died of the same type of brain cancer afflicting Mr McCain.

A tearful Ms McCain, who co-hosts ABC's programme The View, asked Mr Biden for his advice on how to deal with the disease.

Mr McCain was diagnosed in the summer with glioblastoma.

It is an aggressive type of brain cancer.

"Your son Beau had the same cancer that my father was diagnosed with six months ago," Ms McCain said.

"I think about Beau almost every day and I was told that it doesn't get easier but that you cultivate the tools to work with this and live with this.

"I know you and your family have been through tragedy I couldn't conceive of."

Mr Biden said there was hope and that breakthroughs in the treatment of the disease were happening all the time.

He said Mr McCain was one of his best friends, and that "if anybody can make it, your dad [can]".

"Her dad goes after me, hammer and tong. We're like two brothers who were somehow raised by different fathers or something, because of our points of view."

But he added: "I know if I picked up the phone tonight and called John McCain, he'd get on a plane and come, and I would for him, too."

He said the key was to "maintain hope".

What is glioblastoma?

  • It is a highly aggressive form of tumour which starts in the brain or spinal cord
  • Common symptoms include: severe, persistent headaches; seizures (fits); nausea, vomiting and drowsiness; mental or behavioural changes such as memory problems or changes in personality; progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, vision problems or speech problems
  • Treatment: Surgery will usually need to be carried out to remove as much of the tumour as possible. This may be followed by radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy to kill any cancerous cells left behind and reduce the chances of the tumour re-growing
  • The average survival time is 12-18 months, but it can be longer for a less aggressive type of tumour
  • The American Brain Tumor Association (Abta) estimates there will be more than 12,000 cases before the end of 2017 in the US

Sources: NHS, Abta

The show of support elicited a number of reactions on Twitter, including people saluting the cross-partisan aspect of the encounter.

Mr Biden published a memoir last month about his son, who died of the disease in 2015.

Mr McCain's tumour was discovered during a surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye in July.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr McCain was admitted to hospital on Wednesday, but hopes "to return to work soon"

On Wednesday, he was admitted to a Washington DC hospital for "normal side effects" of his cancer treatments, his office said in a statement.

He has no plan to resign, reports say, and he hopes to return to work "as soon as possible", the office said.

A Vietnam veteran, Mr McCain, 81, spent more than five years as a prisoner of war.

The six-term senator and 2008 Republican presidential candidate underwent surgery at a clinic in Phoenix, in the state of Arizona in July.

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