Former President Jimmy Carter To Start Treatment For Cancer In Brain Former President Jimmy Carter announced he has melanoma on his brain and will undergo his first treatment Thursday. He is also stepping away from many of his duties at the Carter Center.
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Former President Jimmy Carter To Start Treatment For Cancer In Brain

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Former President Jimmy Carter To Start Treatment For Cancer In Brain

Former President Jimmy Carter To Start Treatment For Cancer In Brain

Former President Jimmy Carter To Start Treatment For Cancer In Brain

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Former President Jimmy Carter announced he has melanoma on his brain and will undergo his first treatment Thursday. He is also stepping away from many of his duties at the Carter Center.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Former president Jimmy Carter began radiation treatment for cancer today in Atlanta. This morning, he held an usual news conference to explain that treatment and his diagnosis. It's very different from the practice of other former presidents who've only released written statements about their health. Molly Samuel of member station WABE was there.

MOLLY SAMUEL, BYLINE: President Carter was serene this morning at the Carter Center. He spoke to about a hundred journalists and several times had the crowd laughing. He was his usual public self, smiling and relaxed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIMMY CARTER: And I'm perfectly at ease with whatever comes. I do have deep religious faith, which I'm very grateful for, and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't go into an attitude of despair or anger or anything like that.

SAMUEL: Carter, who is 90, cut a trip to Guyana short in May because he wasn't feeling well. In a series of medical exams, doctors found then removed a tumor on his liver, then discovered melanoma had spread to four small places on his brain. He says for years, he and Rosalynn have planned to reduce their international humanitarian work at the Carter Center.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: We thought about this when I was 80 years old. We thought about it again when I was 85. We thought about it again when I was 90.

SAMUEL: Now he says it's time to finally pull back from what he's done here since the early '80s, which, he says, has been more personally gratifying than being president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: Going into villages and learning about them and what the actual needs are and then meeting those needs with the superb Carter Center medical staff I think has been one of the best things that ever happened to me.

SAMUEL: And if he had something he could do over, it would have been his response to the Iran hostage crisis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: I wish I had sent one more helicopter to get the hostages. And we would've rescued them, and I would've been reelected. But that may have...

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER: And that may have interfered with the foundation of the Carter Center. If I had to choose between four more years and the Carter Center, I think I would choose the Carter Center.

SAMUEL: He says he wishes he could see peace in the Middle East in his lifetime, though he calls those prospects dismal. He's more positive about the Carter Center's work to eradicate a parasite in Africa called Guinea Worm.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: Before I die, I'd like for the last Guinea Worm to die before I do.

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER: I think right now, we have 11 cases. We started out with 3.6 million cases.

SAMUEL: Carter says the center will treat 71 million people with diseases around the world this year. In November, his grandson Jason Carter will become the organization's chairman. The president says he'll stay involved in some fundraising, and he hopes to get to Nepal this year, though his treatment may rule that out. It won't keep him away from his church in Plains, Georgia, though. He still plans to teach Sunday School as long as he can, and he's looking forward to spending time with his family, including his 22 grand and great-grandchildren.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: Well, the best thing I ever did was marrying Rosalynn.

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER: That's the pinnacle of my life, and we've had 69 years together.

SAMUEL: He says he's heard from many well-wishers already, including President Obama, former presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: I think I have been as blessed as any human being in the world with becoming the president of the United States of America and governor of Georgia and the work of the Carter Center and a big and growing family and thousands of friends.

SAMUEL: Doctors at Emory University's Cancer Institute are treating Jimmy Carter. Today is his first of four treatments. For NPR News, I'm Molly Samuel in Atlanta.

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