From Richard Mauer in Juneau —
After having delayed surgery for prostate cancer, Rep. Les Gara is leaving the special session to finally get it done, but plans to be back in Juneau by the first week of May. He expects the Legislature will still be in session then.
“I don’t want to be an idiot and wait, and find out I waited too long,” Gara said. At one point he thought about having the surgery at mid-session, when the Legislature went into a week-long hibernation for energy meetings in Washington, but that didn't work out, he said.
Gara, an Anchorage Democrat who has said he has health issues, announced in his most recent constituent newsletter that he had joined the Legislature’s “cancer caucus.” That caucus — and the House — lost one of its members April 10 when Rep. Carl Gatto died after attempting to return for the last two weeks of regular session.
In a phone interview, Gara said he initially scheduled the surgery for May 17, thinking that the Legislature would have concluded its 30 days of special session by then. But Gov. Sean Parnell waited to call the session back till today — April 18 — and Gara feared the final votes on oil taxes and a gas line would take place while he was at the hospital in New York City.
He described the surgery as routine as is possible with prostate cancer.
“There’s a 98 percent chance everything will work out good,” he said. “You’re hoping you’re not the two percent.”
Gara plans to have the surgery Tuesday at Cornell Medical College on New York’s Upper East Side, about a block from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre. Gara said his brother lives in New York and he can stay there before surgery and while he rehabilitates.
“I plan on being back May 2 or May 3,” he said.
Sen. Hollis French said he hopes Gara takes care of his first priority — getting better — before anything else.
“As a close personal friend and admiring colleague, the most important thing he can do is beat his cancer,” said French, an Anchorage Democrat.
That might be difficult advice for Gara to accept. He scheduled the surgery for the time expects the oil tax bill to be in the House Resources Committee — on which he is not a member — and hopes to be back when it's in House Finance, on which is is a member.
"And I'll stay in touch w staff and the caucus to strategize while I'm gone," he said in a text message after the phone interview.