Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole revealed Thursday that he’s been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and will begin treatment Monday.
“While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own,” Dole, 97, said in a statement.
The statement did not provide details about Dole’s treatment plan. Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of the disease and means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Dole represented Kansas in Congress from 1961 to 1996, eventually rising to the position of Senate GOP leader. He won the Republican nomination for president in 1996, mounting an unsuccessful challenge against President Bill Clinton.
Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, a Republican who represented Kansas alongside Dole, said he called her a couple days ago and delivered the news about his diagnosis. She said the two had “quite a good conversation” and that he was in good spirits when they talked.
“I said, ‘You just sound great, Bob. We could certainly use your good voice out here in Kansas,'” Kassebaum said.
Kassebaum said Dole has always been positive and has previously gone through times of serious illness. “And I think that’s a tribute to him, as well, that he has kept a real fighting spirit and wanting to think positive,” she said.
Dole has received a slew of honors since leaving office, including in 2018 when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and in 2019 when Congress passed legislation to formally promote him to the rank of colonel for his World War II service.
Former Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican who has known Dole since the 1960s, said that honoring Dole was one of the few agenda items that could pass the divided Congress with unanimous support.
Dole was wounded in Italy in 1945. He received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor. His war wounds caused permanent damage to his right arm, which he mitigated by holding a pencil during public appearances.
“The man who has faced health challenges since he was wounded on the fields of Italy is no less determined to get well now. Cancer’s tough, but I’ve never known anybody more tough than Bob,” said Roberts, who spoke with Dole about his diagnosis Wednesday in an emotional phone call.
“I know he’s going to fight this with his usual grit and determination.”
Dole has remained active in Republican politics since leaving the Senate in 1996, appearing in multiple campaign ads for Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall during the 2020 election.
“Most every day as I walk the halls of the Capitol, I recognize the boots I wear now, were once worn by Senator Dole and on days like this, those boots look mighty large,” Marshall said in a statement after Dole’s diagnosis was announced.
“I have zero doubt in my mind Senator Dole will take this challenge head on the same way as other challenges he faced in his life. Just as he did as one of the heroes from our greatest generation, in this battle, Senator Dole will continue to show us the way through hope, resiliency, and perseverance.”
Dole was the only former Republican presidential nominee to attend the 2016 Republican National Convention for the nomination of President Donald Trump. However, Dole was highly critical of Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election.