Gov. Bill Walker stood with his family and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott to explain his prostate cancer diagnosis to Alaskans during a Friday afternoon briefing at his Anchorage office.
The governor said he got the news about two weeks ago after a routine check-up.
“(The diagnosis) takes a while to absorb,” he said to reporters. “I join a group of Alaskans that have cancer and I look forward to joining a group of Alaskans that survive cancer.”
Walker made the news public a couple hours earlier in a written statement from his office that emphasized the cancer is very treatable.
He will have surgery to remove the cancer in mid-December, he said, and if all goes well will not require follow-up treatment.
“I want to be done with this as soon as possible,” Walker said.
“I’m feeling fine.”
First Lady Donna Walker said he has not had a single symptom related to the diagnosis.
“We have every confidence for a complete and full recovery,” she said.
Walker also said he was assured by Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth that Mallott has full authority to act as governor if need-be during the roughly three-hour surgery without a formal action based on the parameters laid out by the state Constitution.
The recovery should be brief and not interfere with handling the responsibilities of leading the state, according to the Walkers.
After consulting with other public officials, including other governors, who have gone through similar situations, Walker said he decided to be open about the situation to avoid letting rumors “grow it into something that it’s not.”
The biggest takeaway, he added, should be for all Alaskans to get regular cancer screenings so any issues can be handled early and quickly.
Donna said the surgery will be conducted outside of Alaska by a surgeon recommended by the governor’s primary physician.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski released a statement shortly after the press conference wishing the Walker’s the best.
“While the news of cancer is always troubling, I am glad that Gov. Walker’s doctors caught his illness early, when it is treatable, and that he chose to share what he faces with the people of Alaska,” Murkowski said. “My thoughts are with Bill, Donna, and their family as they walk through this challenge together.”