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Jimmy Carter: ‘I’ll be prepared for anything that comes’

Former President Jimmy Carter revealed to reporters today that he has spots of melanoma on his brain. He discussed his diagnosis, his faith, what he wishes he had done differently in life and what he’d like to see happen with the time he has left.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    But, first, we turn to former President Jimmy Carter's cancer diagnosis. The 90-year-old revealed today he has spots of melanoma on his brain. He talked about life, faith and the course of the disease with reporters at the Carter Center today, just before beginning radiation treatment at Atlanta's Emory Hospital this afternoon.

    JIMMY CARTER, Former President of the United States: In May, I went down to Guyana to help monitor an election, and I had a very bad cold.

    And I left down there and came back to Emory, so they could check me over. And in the process, they did a complete physical examination, and the MRI showed that there was a cancer, or a growth, a tumor on my liver.

    And they did a biopsy and found that it was, indeed, cancer and it was melanoma. And they had a very high suspicion then and now that the melanoma started somewhere else on my body and spread to the — to the liver.

    At first, I felt that it was confined to my liver, and that they had — the operation had completely removed it, so I — quite relieved.

    And then, that same afternoon, we had an MRI of my head and neck, and it showed up that it was already in four places in my brain. So, I would say that night and the next day, until I came back up to Emory, I just thought I had a few weeks left.

    But I was surprisingly at ease. Now I feel, you know, it's in the hands of God, whom I worship. And I will be prepared for anything that comes.

    I feel good. I haven't felt any weakness or debility. The pain has been very slight.

    Both of the — former President Bush, he called me at one time, and then George H.W. Bush, Bush Sr., called me yesterday afternoon again. I think I appreciated that very much, and their wives were there on the telephone with them.

    President Obama called. The vice president called. Bill Clinton called. Hillary Clinton called. The secretary of state called, the first time they've called me in a long time.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    For a number of years, Rosalynn and I have planned on dramatically reducing our work at Carter Center. We have not done it yet.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    We talked about this when I was 80. We talked about it again when I was 85. We talked about it again I was 90.

    So, this is a propitious time, I think, for us finally to carry out our long-delayed plans. So I'm going to cut back fairly dramatically on my obligations.

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

    So I don't think — and living to be 91 years old 1st of October. So, I have had — everything has been a blessing for me.

  • QUESTION:

    Is there anything you wish that you had not done or that you had done differently?

  • JIMMY CARTER:

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

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JIMMY CARTER:

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

  • QUESTION:

    In the time that you have left, what would give you the most satisfaction to see something happen?

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    Well, in international affairs, I would say peace for Israel and its neighbors. That's been a top priority for my foreign policy projects for the last 30 years.

    Right now, I think the prospects are more dismal than any time I remember in the last 50 years. It's practically — the whole process is practically dormant.

    As far as the Carter Center's concerned, I would like to see guinea worm completely eradicated before — before I die. I would like the last guinea worm to die before I do.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    President Carter, we will all pulling for you.

    And you can watch my conversation with President Jimmy Carter from last month, before his diagnosis, where we discussed his latest book, "A Full Life." That's at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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