Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain got teary-eyed on stage in Iowa Saturday when asked about a great challenge he had overcome.
Seated beside some of his fellow GOP contenders for the Family Leader Thanksgiving Forum, Cain recalled the night he found out he had stage 4 colon cancer.
The Des Moines Register transcribed the exchange:
“I will never forget,” Cain began, “walking out of that surgeons office after she had just told us stage four …”
And then Cain paused. His eyes began to water.
Moderator Frank Luntz interjected: “Take your time.”
“It’s as bad as it gets,” Cain continued. “I will never forget before my wife and I were about to get in the car I said, I can do this…’
Cain paused again. The audience remained silent.
“She said, ‘We,’ ” Cain finished.
Cain’s hands covered his face. The audience erupted in applause. As Texas Gov. Rick Perry fielded the next question, Cain removed his glasses and continually cleared his eyes with a handkerchief.
It wasn't the first time Cain has gotten emotional on the campaign trail: During a recent interview, he got choked up describing the role his wife would play at his inauguration, holding the Bible.
He also paused for a second time Saturday when talking about not spending enough time at home with his children when they were younger, calling it a "little failure in my mind" and a sacrifice he made to climb the corporate ladder.
"I always meant to be home and spend more time with them but I couldn’t because of the demands of my business life," he said.
But Cain wasn't the only candidate to have a raw moment at the forum: Both former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich got emotional as well, Santorum talking about his daughter born with a severe genetic disorder and Gingrich talking about a friend's son who spent six years going through surgery to remove a series of tumors.
Santorum, whose daughter is still alive, said he did not let himself fully love her for the first few months of her life in order to steel himself for her expected death, the Register reported.
"I remember holding that finger, looking at her and realizing what I had done. I had been exactly what I had said that I’d fought against at the partial birth abortion. I had seen her as less a person," Santorum said. "It does hurt to say that."
For Gingrich, having watched a little boy struggle for years severe medical problems is a reminder for the year ahead, Radio Iowa reported.
"You look at that and you say to yourself, 'All right, do I want some bureaucracy deciding that on a percentage basis this is not worth the investment?' Gingrich said. "Or do I want a country that cares about every life of that depth? That is what next year’s all about."