The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

 
 

By MARK THIESSEN
Associated Press 

Gov. Walker announced he has a "highly treatable" form of cancer

Surgical treatment will take place in December he said at press conference

 

Valdez Star file photo

Gov. Bill Walker greeting Valdez constituents earlier this summer.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announced Friday that he has a treatable form of prostate cancer, but said it won't prevent him from performing his duties as governor.

Walker, 65, told reporters that he was diagnosed two weeks ago.

He will undergo a three-hour surgical procedure in another state in December but did not name the state or the hospital.

Walker said he has consulted with the state attorney general, and the Alaska Constitution gives Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott the authority to make decisions for the state during that period if needed.

Walker said there were several options presented to him to fight the cancer, and he chose surgery because it's "one-time, and I want to be done with this as soon as possible."

He said he consulted with others over whether to make his condition public, including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe, who was diagnosed with treatable prostate cancer in February and was open about it. Walker concluded there was no reason not to make his diagnosis public and that keeping it secret could prompt rumors about his health.

The people he talked with told him "if you don't come out and talk about it, it will grow into something that it is not," Walker said.

Wolfe told him to "own it," referring to the cancer, and that speaking about his health would prompt others who have not been tested to do so, Walker said.

Walker told reporters he was "feeling fine" and he had no specific symptoms prompting him to seek testing.

Since his diagnosis, Walker joined a group of Alaskans who have cancer and noted how many residents in the state have been diagnosed with it.

"Our hearts and prayers are with them," he said. "And we will get through this as well."

Walker, an independent, took office in December 2014.

Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner said she was dismayed by the news and hoped Walker would be cured of cancer and make a full recovery.

"It looks like he has reason to anticipate a great outcome, and I'll certainly wish him all the best and be waiting for updates," the Anchorage Democrat said.

House Minority Leader Chris Tuck called the news a "reality check that we're all human." He said he was checked in January and said many friends and family members have had prostate cancer.

"Just judging by their experiences, we should still have a fully functioning governor. I'm not concerned about that," the Anchorage Democrat said. "I'm just concerned that he gets the proper treatment and that he recovers."

First lady Donna Walker, who appeared at the news conference with the couple's children, the governor's brother and Mallott, said her husband normally works 11 to 12 hours a day.

"This is why we are encouraging everyone to follow through with the regular checkups, because there was not one single symptom," she said.

She noted that the governor's brother did not attend the news conference "because these guys are working construction this weekend."

Walker has been quietly working in and out of Valdez the past weeks.

(Associated Press writer Rachel D'Oro in Anchorage contributed to this report)

 

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