Jimmy Carter on cancer battle: "It is in God's hands"

ATLANTA -- On Thursday, Jimmy Carter spoke publicly, and candidly, about his life -- and his battle against the disease that threatens it.

He revealed that his cancer has spread to his brain and that he is dealing with it with hope and acceptance.

"I'm perfectly at ease with whatever comes," he said. "It is in God's hands."

Jimmy Carter spoke candidly about his cancer prognosis and even managed to crack a few jokes during a news conference at the Carter Center on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. CBS News

The 90-year-old former president was relaxed, matter of fact and even in a joking mood during the news conference in which he discussed the four small cancers on his brain.

His reaction when he got that news: "I just thought I had a few weeks left."

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All the cancers are melanomas, which usually occur on the skin, but only rarely internally. Mr. Carter said the cancer is likely to show up elsewhere in his body.

Carter as asked if it was difficult to go forward with treatment and if his faith played a role in his decisions.

"When they said that they wanted to go ahead and treat them, I'm perfectly at ease with that and I'm perfectly at ease with whatever comes," said Carter. "I do have deep religious faith, which I'm grateful for and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't go into an attitude of despair or anger or anything like that.

"I was just completely at ease," he said.

Mr. Carter described getting calls from all of his successors, including President Obama and others in the administration. He's sometimes been critical of all of them.

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"The vice president called, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton called, the Secretary of State called," he said. "First time they've called me in a long time," he laughed.

Asked if there's anything he wished he'd done differently, the 39th president said he wished he had sent one more helicopter on the failed 1980 mission to rescue American hostages in Iran.

"We would have rescued them and I would have been re-elected but that may have interfered with the foundation of the Carter Center," he said. "If I had to choose between four more years and the Carter Center, I think I would choose the Carter Center."

Former President Jimmy Carter has cancer

One of the treatments the former president is receiving is relatively new. It stimulates the immune system to attack the cancer. Mr. Carter says that he will be cutting back on his schedule, but nonetheless he'll be teaching Sunday School as usual this weekend in his home town of Plains.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent