Heartwell Battling Prostate Cancer

November 7, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Mayor-elect George Heartwell scheduled a press conference for 9 a.m. this morning to announce that he has prostate cancer and will undergo surgery within two weeks.

The prognosis, according to his physicians, is good.

The first clue was that he would not lead the annual Santa Claus parade Nov. 22. The announcement was said to be puzzling to the Jaycees who annually toil to put the lineup together, a situation that Heartwell was determined to answer immediately in a hastily called press conference this morning. Heartwell, standing with his physicians, announced that he has prostate cancer, affecting 35 percent of the right lobe. He also is determined to be the “poster child” for early detection and promotion of regular checkups. The city’s new mayor also determined surgery was his best option and deigned to do so immediately, so that recovery is complete by the time he is scheduled to take the oath of office Dec. 30.

“Both doctors said I could wait, that the surgery was not urgent, but I didn’t want to wait. I want to be able to hit the ground running. I wanted to get this out of the way,” Heartwell said in an interview with the Business Journal.

During a routine physical in October, Heartwell’s primary care physician, Charles Andrew, MD, determined there was reason to send him to urologist MichaelNovak. MD, who conducted a biopsy on Oct. 7. Heartwell said he reviewed his surgical options, consulting with Mayo Clinic among others, but said he is pleased to emphasize he can receive the same care and surgery quality in Grand Rapids. Both physicians are affiliated with Spectrum’s Butterworth Campus, where the operation will be conducted Nov. 18.

Heartwell, 54, also noted his condition “is a puzzle” with no family history of such cancer, no “lifestyle” health questions and otherwise healthy checkups.           

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