Jimmy Carter Says Doctors Found Cancer in His Brain

Posted on August 20, 2015


by Bradley Matthews, editing by Adam MS

Mr. Carter, speaking at a news conference at the Carter Center here, said his health had been under scrutiny since May, when he had a cold while traveling in Guyana.

The former president added that the cancer, which he said was melanoma, had been found in his liver, part of which was removed during a procedure on Aug. 3. He described the melanoma on his brain as four “very small spots.”

With his wife, Rosalynn, nearby, Mr. Carter, 90, said that he would begin radiation therapy later on Thursday.

He added that he would reduce his schedule “fairly dramatically.” Still, he said, “I plan to teach Sunday school this Sunday.”

“I can’t really anticipate how I’ll be feeling, obviously,” he said. “I’ll have to defer quite substantially to my doctors.”

Saying that his life was in God’s hands and that he was “perfectly at ease with whatever comes,” Mr. Carter noted that when he first learned that the cancer was in his brain, he believed he “had just a few weeks left.”

But Mr. Carter will instead embark on a treatment course that doctors hope will stretch for several months.

The news conference followed a written statement on Aug. 12 in which Mr. Carter announced that liver surgery had uncovered “cancer that now is in other parts of my body.” It said that he would be treated by doctors at Emory University and that he would eventually make “a more complete public statement.”

Although historians said it was rare for a former president to hold a formal news conference about his health, Mr. Carter has occasionally spoken out about matters like his medical care and his family’s extensive history with pancreatic cancer, which killed his father and three siblings. (Mr. Carter has not disclosed whether his cancer affects his pancreas.)

“It’s probably unusual for most former presidents, but not Jimmy Carter,” Mark K. Updegrove, the author of the 2006 book “Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House,” said of Mr. Carter’s decision to speak publicly. “I think he’s always been open and candid. This is just another example of that.”

The health of sitting presidents, and presidential candidates, is frequently a public matter, and the White House issues statements about routine medical appointments. After President Obama underwent a physical examination in 2014, for instance, officials released a two-page summarythat included a blood pressure reading, laboratory results and a list of medications.

Sitting presidents, and sometimes first ladies, have also addressed their health in more camera-ready settings, as when Lyndon B. Johnson spoke to reporters from his hospital bed after throat surgery in 1966.

But former presidents have generally chosen to make written announcements about their health. Notably, Ronald Reagan used a handwritten letter in 1994 to disclose that he had Alzheimer’s disease. This summer, a spokesman for George Bush used written statements and Twitter to discuss Mr. Bush’s condition after a fall at his Maine home.

Before Mr. Carter’s announcement last week, his office had released at least two other written statements this year about his health. In May,officials said Mr. Carter was leaving Guyana early because he “was not feeling well,” and on Aug. 3, the Carter Center announced the elective procedure that ultimately revealed the cancer.

Mr. Carter’s appearance on Thursday could begin to fulfill the predictions of friends in Plains, the small southwest Georgia city where he lives, and other observers that he would use his diagnosis as a way to raise public awareness.

“Because of him facing cancer, he’s going to use this to help others,” Jan Williams, a longtime friend of the Carter family, said last week. “He will make it into a teaching experience for others to learn from.”

Mr. Carter appeared in Plains on Sunday, when he went to Maranatha Baptist Church, the congregation where he has long led Sunday school classes. The church said that Mr. Carter was scheduled to teach this weekend.