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‘I Hate to Leave.’ John McCain Opens Up About His Brain Cancer Diagnosis and the Future of Politics

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Republican Sen. John McCain said that his brain cancer diagnosis served as “ungentle persuasion” to recognize his current term in the Senate will be his last.

The longtime lawmaker wrote in an excerpt from his new book The Restless Wave, published Monday on Apple News, that not having to run for re-election provides him with the freedom to “vote my conscience without worry.” McCain announced in July 2017 that he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

“I’m freer than colleagues who will face the voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much. And I can vote my conscience without worry,” McCain said. “I don’t think I’m free to disregard my constituents’ wishes, far from it. I don’t feel excused from keeping pledges I made. Nor do I wish to harm my party’s prospects. But I do feel a pressing responsibility to give Americans my best judgment.”

In July 2017, days after announcing his diagnosis, McCain broke with the Republican party to cast a deciding vote against a “skinny” repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The Arizona lawmaker said at the time that he hoped Congress would return to “the correct way of legislating,” including having the two political parties work together.

McCain echoes that sentiment in the book, writing that he hopes the partisan divide will begin to narrow before he leaves office.

“We are secluding ourselves into ideological ghettos. We have our own news sources. We exchange ideas mostly or exclusively with people who agree with us, and troll those who don’t. Increasingly, we have our own facts to reinforce our convictions and any empirical evidence that disputes them is branded as ‘fake,'” McCain writes. “Before I leave I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike that difference.”

McCain also opened up about facing his brain cancer prognosis by referencing a line from For Whom the Bell Tolls: “The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.” McCain wrote: “I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I made a small place for myself in the story of American and the history of my times.”

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Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com