Rep. Gara's doctor reports he's cancer-free after surgery

Lisa DemerAlaska Dispatch News

Rep. Les Gara's cancer surgery in New York City went well Tuesday, and his doctor said he's now cancer free, he said Friday.

Gara exited the Legislature's special session to undergo prostate cancer surgery at Cornell Medical College on the Upper East Side.

Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, said it was more involved than anticipated. At one point, when he was almost ready for discharge, his blood pressure dropped by half. He stayed in the hospital two nights longer than expected.

"I feel like an invisible man has been punching me in the stomach for the last four days," Gara said Friday afternoon, about an hour after he finally was discharged.

By then the Legislature's special session had already imploded. The governor on Wednesday evening yanked the bill giving oil companies huge tax breaks from the table. The state Senate adjourned Thursday, saying it saw no hope of agreement on the lone item left, a controversial gas pipeline bill that Gara argued against when it was before the House. House leader haven't given up and say they want to see if there is hope for a deal.

Gara timed his surgery in the hope of being back in Juneau just as the governor's oil tax measure reached the House Finance Committee, of which he is a member. He thought about waiting until after the special session.

"But at some point with cancer, you've waited too long," Gara said.

He told his constituents in a newsletter this month that he had joined the "cancer caucus." Rep. Carl Gatto, who had prostate cancer, died during the session.

Rep. Mike Hawker, another with prostate cancer, is undergoing aggressive treatment and says he's doing excellently.

From his hospital room, Gara stayed in touch with events in Juneau by email and phone. House Minority leader Beth Kerttula said lawmakers heard from him regularly. An aide sent him detailed notes of committee testimony. He got a call when the governor signed his bill promoting access to fishing streams, a bill that he's worked on for eight years.

"I was happy it got signed," he said. He didn't mind not being there.

He's staying with his brother and seeing other family while he rehabilitates. He'll be back in Juneau May 3 or 4.

By then, everyone in the Legislature may be gone.

"I just wanted to do it in a way that got me back in time for Finance. I may be sitting alone at Finance," he joked.

Reach Lisa Demer at or (907) 500-7388.

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