Heartwell To Have Cancer Surgery

November 7, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Mayor-elect George Heartwell revealed this morning that he will undergo surgery to remove a cancerous prostrate gland on Nov. 18. Dr. Michael Novak will perform the procedure on the Blodgett campus of Spectrum Health.

“It is a very common procedure performed by urologists,” said Novak, who added that Heartwell was in excellent health otherwise.

“I look forward to George having a speedy and full recovery and he won’t be limited in any future actions,” said Novak at a downtown press conference.

Heartwell learned he had cancer on Oct.11, a condition discovered after he had routine blood work done in August. Heartwell said he and his wife, Susan, chose to have the gland removed over having a radioactive seed implanted in the gland or undergo radiation therapy.

The mayor-elect said he considered getting treatment from the Mayo Clinic and the University of Michigan Hospital, but decided to have the procedure done here because he has the utmost confidence in the local medical community.

The surgery is expected to last two to three hours and Heartwell is expected to spend two to three days in Blodgett afterward. He will then recuperate at home for two to three weeks.

Heartwell said he has cancelled dozens of appointments for the next few weeks and will miss the new mayor’s school he planned to attend at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

But he added that he hoped to participate in at least a portion of the City Commission’s strategic planning retreat set for the first week of December.

“The recovery time is longer than I’d like,” said Heartwell, who was able to bypass the general election because he won an overwhelming majority of the vote in the September primary.

“On Dec. 30, I take my oath of office and I will be there,” he said.

Heartwell said he went public with what is usually a very private matter because of the trust and faith the people of Grand Rapids have placed in him, and to encourage men in the area to have their prostate gland checked on an annual basis.

The mayor-elect is 54 years old, and his family doesn’t have a history of cancer.

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