Gubernatorial candidate Scott Hawkins is undergoing treatment for early stage pancreatic cancer, and calls his prospects for recovery good.
Hawkins, an Anchorage businessman who filed for office in September, said he was diagnosed several weeks ago and took quick and decisive action to arrest the tumor, which appears to not have spread.
He is being treated at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle and Alaska Oncology in Anchorage. He said he is maintaining his business obligations and campaign schedule, and monitoring results from a continuing regimen of drug therapy.
This weekend he will be in Kodiak to meet with community members and hear their concerns about state economic and social issues.
Hawkins issued a statement today:
“In recent months, I learned that I am confronted by a serious adversary — cancer. Through a dedicated treatment regimen and prayer, I plan to join the tens of thousands of Alaskans who now call themselves cancer survivors. The first round of treatment has provided a great deal of information, and because of my underlying good health, I’m very positive that I will defeat this disease. After consulting with my doctors, and based in large part on their prognosis, I will continue my campaign for Governor.”
Dr. Vincent Picozzi, an oncology physician and internationally recognized pancreatic cancer expert at Virginia Mason in Seattle, is leading Hawkins’ treatment team. He offered this assessment: “Scott presents with very good underlying health and an absence of other complications. His cancer is localized and has not spread to other organs. Given the advances in recent years in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, and the results we have been seeing here at Virginia Mason, I am treating him with full curative intent.”
Picozzi and his staff take in over 300 such cases each year and are considered a national center of excellence in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Stephen Liu of Alaska Oncology, a member of Hawkins’ treatment team, said, “Scott’s tumor is still small. We will shrink it further with treatment, prior to surgery. That makes him an excellent candidate for a successful surgery. Scott has been tolerating the drug treatments remarkably well, which gives us more treatment options and adds further optimism to his prognosis.”
Regarding his decision to stay in the race, Hawkins said, “The bottom line is this: I care greatly about this state and am deeply committed to getting it back on track. This diagnosis only accentuates that commitment. Our state is at a crossroads and we need to change direction for the sake of future generations. The support and momentum from Alaska voters for my message of conservative change energizes me more every day.”
Hawkins is not the only candidate to face health issues. Gov. Bill Walker underwent treatment for prostate cancer in 2016, and Mike Dunleavy dropped out of the race last fall to address a heart condition, but re-entered the race at the end of December after apparently resolving the issue.
Legislative races have seen medical complications, too. Sara Rasmussen, running in the primary for House District 22 (now occupied by Jason Grenn), gave birth to a daughter this week — mother and daughter (and the rest of her family) are fine, although the infant was admitted to the intensive care unit for treatment of fluid in her lungs. Reps. Charisse Millett and Les Gara are both cancer survivors, and this year Rep. David Guttenberg was taken to the hospital for an undisclosed medical condition, while Rep. Ivy Spohnholz was medevaced to Anchorage during legislative session for treatment of a life-threatening pulmonary embolism — a blot clot in her lungs.
Hawkins said that facing cancer has a way of focusing one’s mind on what is most important. “In addition to family, in the arena of public policy I would like to focus on those things that will bring long-lasting benefit to Alaskans. A sustainable fiscal policy that avoids heavy new taxes on families and businesses, and access to affordable health care, are two top examples.”
He decided it was time to disclose his medical condition to Alaskan voters when he learned that the drug treatment regimen will last into the summer, the heart of the primary campaign season. “Alaska voters deserve to know the whole picture. Also, I will need the understanding of Alaskans should I lose hair or should my schedule need to be adjusted this summer due to medical treatments.”