North Texas

Local Brain Cancer Patient Reflects on Sen. John McCain's Diagnosis

Dallas Morning News reporter documents his battle with glioblastoma

Current brain cancer patients are familiar with Sen. John McCain's fight against a brain cancer tumor, known as glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma affects about 20,000 people a year.

Jeffrey Weiss, a reporter at The Dallas Morning News, was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2016 and is now seven months into his cancer battle.

"I started losing the ability to get words out. I couldn't think of words. 'There's a festival in the south in Louisiana every year. What's the city it's in?' I couldn't remember 'New Orleans,'" Weiss said. "I couldn't remember 'Mardi Gras,' little things like that. I was 61 and I said to myself, 'Maybe I am getting older.'"

However, symptoms worsened and affected his ability to write and think clearly.

"I got scanned and what was identified was a tumor the size of an egg, basically right here. I had the surgery two days later," Weiss said.

Photos captured by his colleagues document his journey, which included radiation, chemotherapy and numerous visits to Dr. Karen Fink, his neuro-oncologist affiliated with Baylor University Medical Center.

"It's life changing. Usually the first treatment is surgery. Some of the tumors can be removed completely and some of them can't. That makes a big difference in survival and how patients do," Fink said.

She says in McCain's case, doctors were able to quickly link the blood clot to the tumor, giving him a better chance of prolonging his cancer fight.

Weiss feels it could also help his own fight.

"If John McCain decides that he is going to put his professional focus on glioblastoma and its treatments, it could have a huge impact on us, on all of us who have it. It could accelerate attention, make sure people understand it a little better, so that the first time you have, it's not a total shock," he said.

Weiss is part of trials for new treatments, such as Optune, a wearable device of electrodes designed to break up tumor cells.

He says while his story plays out, he is living life on his terms.

"My wife and I took a cruise. We went to Disney World," he said.

"I come here on Thursdays. My 'Thursdays with Jeffrey.' I enjoy it, and I hope I'm doing some good with it, but as much as anything, because it makes me feel better," he said.

According to Fink, people who are diagnosed with glioblastoma live on average about 15 to 18 months.

She says younger patients have better outcomes.

MORE: You can read Jeffrey Weiss's collection of personal narratives here.

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