Jimmy Carter on cancer: Future is in God’s hands

Posted at 11:19 AM, Aug 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-20 11:19:45-04

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former President Jimmy Carter described his cancer diagnosis Thursday in deeply personal and human detail, saying doctors found spots of melanoma on his brain and that his future “is in the hands of the God who I worship.”

“I think I’ve been as blessed as anyone in the world living to 91 years old (in October) … so I’m thankful and hopeful,” Carter said as he sat alone at a table during a press conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta. He added later, “I can’t really anticipate how I’ll be feeling. Obviously I’ll have to defer quite substantially to my doctors who are in charge of the treatment.”

He said he’ll get his first radiation treatment Thursday afternoon.

Carter, speaking slowly and softly and wearing a coat and tie with blue jeans, said he had been overwhelmed with phone calls of support — including outreach from Secretary of State John Kerry and former presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush, who called at once. Carter said he wasn’t in a lot of discomfort but had some shoulder pain.

Carter said in the immediate aftermath of the diagnosis, “I just thought I had a few weeks left (to live), but I was surprisingly at ease — much more so than my wife was.”

He said the generations of Carter family members will be visiting in the upcoming weeks.

The 39th U.S. president said he would cut back at his work at the Carter Center along with teaching obligations at nearby Emory University. He added that he was still hoping to do work with Habitat for Humanity in Nepal, but that it will again depend on his doctor’s guidance.

“I really wanted to go to Nepal to build houses,” Carter said. “This would have been our 33rd year. I was very hopeful about that, but if it interrupts the treatment regimen I think I need to get the treatment.”

Carter said he would continue teaching Sunday school at his church “as long as I’m physically able.”

Carter had a “small mass” removed from his liver in an early-August surgical procedure. He said so far the only places where cancer had been found in his body was in his brain and liver, though he also discussed his family’s history with the disease.

“For a long time my family was the only one on earth that had four people who have died of pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Carter, elected in 1976 and ousted in the 1980 election by Ronald Reagan, has a family history of pancreatic cancer — a disease that claimed his father, brot