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Maria says she thinks of her uncle as a warrior. "I say to my kids, 'You have to look at life as a marathon.' This is a person who people wrote off, counted out [and] said he would never amount to anything, and look at him," she says. "[He's] the lion of the Senate ... a fighter. Somebody who knows every kid in our family. Someone who understood the power of family and loyalty and humor and patriotism and fought and created this extraordinary career and changed millions of people's lives."
Despite his diagnosis, Maria says her uncle is doing well. Recently, she says he took her and her mother, who has suffered several strokes this year, sailing. "Mother's in the wheelchair and on the boat, and he's got cancer. The two of them are out there, and I'm like, 'Whoa, this is like a reality show,'" she says. "It's the circle of life, like I say to my kids. You have to live in the now, live in the moment and be so grateful. I'm a big believer in saying to people all the time: 'I love you. Thank you for what you've done for me.'"