If there's one thing everyone admired about Senator Tom Coburn, it's that he was a fighter. He fought for America, for what was right, and -- since he was 28 years old -- for his life. The longtime doctor lost that battle over the weekend, finally succumbing to the cancer he'd managed to beat so many times before. At 72, he lived 40 years longer than most people gave him. But then, the biggest mistake anyone ever made was underestimating the gentleman from Oklahoma.
"If you're ever seriously ill," John Fund writes, "Coburn's life is itself an inspiration. He contracted melanoma when he was 28 and working as manager of his family's optical-lens factory. He was given only a 20 percent chance of living. He beat the melanoma, and his struggle convinced him to enter medical school and become a doctor. Years later, he contracted colon cancer and conquered that, too. In 2008, he had brain surgery to remove a benign brain tumor.
Then in 2013, he was told he had a rare form of prostate cancer, one that only one in 100,000 prostate-cancer patients suffer from. While the disease convinced him to retire from the Senate in early 2015, he remained optimistic." He told a local newspaper that if his treatment worked, he'd live another "five or 10 years." He lasted almost seven.
Beloved for his limited government, debt-reduction crusade, Senator Coburn was the voice of reason when no one else had the spine to be. Famous for his annual "Wastebook," a collection of absurd pork projects that highlighted trillions of misspent government dollars, the three-term congressman and two-term senator "blocked more bad ideas and lousy legislation," the Wall Street Journal once wrote, "than most Americans will ever know."
A fearless champion of the family, even serving a stint on the FRC board, Tom Coburn spent decades bringing babies into the world as an obstetrician and five terms protecting those who weren't yet born in Congress. He was a tireless advocate of parents, marriage, religious freedom, and conscience. And he did it all by putting his convictions ahead of political gain. While other members of Congress would do anything to get reelected, the senator once told Tim Carney that he believed in "holding the office with an open hand."
But despite his fierce beliefs, Senator Coburn never lost sight of what was most important. When he was asked how he worked with people he disagreed with, Tom replied simply, "You need to separate the difference in political philosophy versus friendship. How better to influence somebody than love them?"
Our prayers go out to the entire Coburn family, as they mourn the loss of a true conservative giant. May they be comforted in the tremendous legacy he's left behind.