Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, has passed away from brain cancer at the age of 46. This makes him the first child of a sitting president or vice president to die since Patrick Bouvier Kennedy died a mere two days after his birth.
What makes Beau Biden’s death so lamentable, though, is that he is yet another victim of cancer. Cancer does not discriminate between celebrities and “regular” people. This was a man who had served the United States by fighting in Iraq, who had served as attorney general in Delaware, most recently fighting in child molestation cases, and a father. He was also a man who, in spite of seeming good health, fell ill in 2010 when he suffered a stroke that left him with no motor or speech impairments.
It was shortly after that — roughly three years — that the Bidens discovered Beau had cancer, and in a horrifying turn, it was realized that he had brain cancer. Doctors had removed a lesion from his brain and he was released from hospital. Shortly after, doctors gave him a clean bill of health. The survival rate from each type of brain cancer is different, and Beau Biden is no exception to this — he would have been looking at a 5-year survival rate of anywhere from six to 86 percent, based on his age and the range of possible cancers he may have had.
There are a wide number of possible brain and spinal tumors Beau Biden may have had, ranging from glioblastomas to Ependymoma or anaplastic ependymoma, and while the sort of cancer that the vice president’s eldest son had has not been revealed yet, it definitely would have had an overall impact on his survival rate. At this point, it really does not matter the cancer he had — certainly, it does not matter to the junior Biden, or to his young family. By all accounts, he was a hale and healthy man for whom brain cancer would have potentially been an alien sort of thought.
Seeing Beau Biden felled in what should have been one of the most professionally and personally gratifying times of his life only serves to underscore how wide ranging cancer is. The younger Biden was married with two young children who will now grow up with potentially fleeting memories of their father, who like his own father before him, put his family at the forefront of everything he did. For the Bidens, there was no putting politics above family — family was at their core, and it was a lesson that Vice President Joe Biden drove home to his kids from the time they were little. While Beau and his brother, Hunter, were recovering from the car crash that took the lives of Vice President Biden’s first wife, Neilia, and his 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, in 1972, Vice President Biden decided he would not take the Senate seat which he had fought to win because, as he put it, his boys only had one father. He was ultimately sworn in as senator at his boys’ hospital bedsides.
It was a lesson which Beau Biden seemed to take with him through his own career in politics. Now, though, his children are left with only memories of their own father — memories of a dad who believed in duty, but also believed in being their for his family. Unfortunately, though, Beau Biden was simply in a fight against cancer that he was not able to win.
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images]