Jimmy Carter announces melanoma diagnosis: The Carter Center set to transition smoothly

Former President Jimmy Carter turns to his Christian faith during this hard time. Submitted Photos by Rick Diamond | The Carter Center
Former President Jimmy Carter turns to his Christian faith during this hard time.  Submitted Photos by Rick Diamond | The Carter Center
Former President Jimmy Carter turns to his Christian faith during this hard time.
Submitted Photos by Rick Diamond | The Carter Center

Former President Jimmy Carter announced his diagnosis with brain cancer on Aug. 20. The lively 90-year-old told the news media gathered at The Carter Center he felt surprisingly at ease.

Carter collectedly shed light on his condition to reporters in a room filled to capacity at The Carter Center, a non-profit located off Freedom Parkway in Atlanta aiming to advance human rights worldwide.

“I feel it’s in the hands of God and my worship, and I’ll be prepared for anything that comes,” he said in the press meeting.

A tumorous growth found on Carter’s liver in late May was removed Aug. 3. Carter said the doctors had a high suspicion the melanoma originated at another spot on the body, then spread to his liver.

“After that, they did an MRI and found that there were four spots of melanoma on my brain,” he said.

He attributed his calmness to his strong Christian faith.

David Bell, a Religious Studies professor at Georgia State, attested to Carter’s powerful beliefs.  Bell worked at Carter’s Atlanta church Northside Drive Baptist for several years while finishing his doctorate.  

“‘Faith is a verb. Act on faith’, is a quote he has repeatedly used,” Bell said.

Bell visits Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., where Carter still teaches Sunday school, yearly. The former president plans to keep teaching lessons until his health allows him to do so.

Pilgrims from all parts of the country have flocked to witness Carter teach his class. The first lesson after his cancer diagnosis drew nearly 1,000 people to Maranatha Baptist Church, which was built for only a few hundred, according to The Washington Post.

Racial equality and civil rights were founding principles of Maranatha Baptist, and they were the most prominent issues for Carter. Bell said the Plains, Ga. church made an enormous impact on the life and decision making of Carter.

Carter has since made a push for women’s rights, releasing a book titled “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” in 2014.

“For Carter, his faith led him to address the overwhelming oppression of women and to highlight the suffering that women still endure in the 21st century,” Bell said.

These values of seeking peace, justice, human rights and giving back to his community carried over into The Carter Center, which was created following the President’s time in office according to a spokesman for the center.

The Carter Center has worked to wage peace, fight disease and build hope around the world.

By 2014, the center fought to eradicate the guinea worm to only 126 cases in four countries. Approximately 3.5 million cases in 21 countries had previously been discovered in 1986, according to The Carter Center. The former president is hopeful the disease could be completely eradicated in his lifetime.

“I would like the last Guinea worm to die before I do,” Carter said in the press conference.

Carter also announced he would reduce his involvement with The Carter Center due to his imminent treatments. He said he will receive radiation treatment four times over the next 12 weeks. He received his first radiation treatment that afternoon.

He doesn’t plan to walk away from The Carter Center completely, however.

Carter said in the press conference he plans to continue amassing funds, currently generating an endowment of about $600 million for The Carter Center when he and Rosalynn Carter can no longer stand as public figures.  

He also plans to attend Board of Trustee meetings and schedule regular appointments with directors, as they give detailed reports regarding peace and health programs abroad.

“For a number of years, Rosa and I had planned on dramatically reducing our work at The Carter Center,” he said. “We hadn’t done it yet. I think this is a propitious time for us to finally carry out our long-delayed plans.”

In doing so, Carter said Jason Carter, his grandson and a former Georgia state senator, has been selected unanimously as Chairman of the Board.

A spokesperson for The Carter Center said Jason Carter is well acquainted with the center’s initiatives since he has been on the Board of Trustees for five years and headed the strategic planning committee the last two years.

As The Carter Center is set to move forward, Carter’s condition will be examined and monitored closely. No matter the outcome, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is not worried.

“I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve had thousands of friends. I’ve had an exciting, adventurous, and gratifying existence. I’m perfectly at ease with whatever comes,” Carter said in the press conference.

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