John Dingell in hospice care after cancer diagnosis

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Former U.S. Congressman John Dingell and U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

Washington — The family of former U.S. Rep. John Dingell said he is in hospice care after a cancer diagnosis, and they are requesting privacy. 

The 92-year-old Dearborn Democrat was diagnosed a year ago with prostate cancer that had metastasized, and Dingell decided not to treat it, a family member said Wednesday. He recently went into hospice care. 

His wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said her husband is in relatively good spirits and even dictated a tweet on Wednesday because he had to respond to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address.

"He is John Dingell. He is in charge. Ordering everyone around. Doing it his way," she said. 

John Dingell was the longest-serving member of Congress when he retired in early 2015 after 59 years in office. 

Dingell took to Twitter late Wednesday afternoon to thank well-wishers for their concern.

"The Lovely Deborah is insisting I rest and stay off here, but after long negotiations we've worked out a deal where she'll keep up with Twitter for me as I dictate the messages," he said.

"I want to thank you all for your incredibly kind words and prayers. You're not done with me just yet."

Debbie Dingell was not in Washington for Tuesday's State of the Union address but instead stayed at home in Michigan with her husband.

"Friends and colleagues know me and know I would be in Washington right now unless something was up. I am home with John and we have entered a new phase," she wrote Wednesday morning on Facebook

"He is my love and we have been a team for nearly 40 years. I will be taking each day as it comes. We thank people for their friendship and support and ask for prayers and privacy during this difficult time."

John Dingell was hospitalized in September for just over a week at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit after suffering what his family described as a heart attack.

He was the chairman or ranking Democrat on House Energy and Commerce Committee from 1981-2008 and helped shape landmark laws affecting the environment, telecommunications and the auto industry.

When he announced his retirement five years ago, Dingell said his health was good enough to run again but he was not certain he would have been able to serve the entire two-year term. 

"I'm not going to be carried out feet first," Dingell told The Detroit News in 2014. "I don't want people to say I stayed too long."

Dingell has also said disillusionment with the institution of Congress influenced his decision to retire. 

In his book, published in December, Dingell said Congress has become a "mean-spirited place ... devoid of bipartisanship," recalling bygone days when members worked to find common ground for the good of the country.

Friends and former colleagues of Dingell sent well wishes and urged prayers on Wednesday. 

"My thoughts are with my dear colleague, friend, and mentor John Dingell. Debbie is right by his side as always. God bless them both," tweeted Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph. 

"My thoughts are with you and the Dean," tweeted Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield. "We miss you." 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, wrote: "Our love and prayers are with you and John."

"Please pray for @JohnDingell, @RepDebDingell, and family," tweeted Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township. 

Former Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, a Republican, wrote: "I don’t care what your politics are. This is sad, sad news."

Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, tweeted: "Blessings and peace to the Dingell family during this difficult journey. Let's keep them all in our immediate thoughts and prayers."
Twitter: @nannburke