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Friday, November 5, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Drewel To Have Prostate Surgery -- Cancer Was Found In September

Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau

EVERETT - Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel is to undergo major surgery Monday to remove his cancerous prostate gland.

The cancer apparently has not spread, said Everett urologist Thomas Cooper, who will perform the surgery. Lymph nodes also will be removed to confirm the cancer is confined to the prostate.

"We don't think this will shrink Mr. Drewel's life expectancy by one day," Cooper said.

Drewel, 53, said the cancer was discovered Sept. 13, the day before the primary election, through a blood test taken during his annual physical examination. A biopsy then confirmed the diagnosis.

On Tuesday, Drewel was re-elected to a third term. He said yesterday he didn't publicly reveal his prostate cancer before the election because it would have distracted attention from important campaign issues.

"I didn't want to invalidate the campaign activity," said Drewel, a Democrat.

Lew Moore, Drewel's Republican opponent, yesterday said that decision made sense.

"I just hope it works out and that he'll completely recover from it," said Moore, regional chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Langley.

Only a half-dozen of Drewel's associates were told of the diagnosis before yesterday, when he informed all elected officials, county employees and the news media.

While making the announcement to a couple of newspaper reporters in his office, Drewel took a telephone call from Vice President Al Gore. Gore had heard the news from Drewel's daughter, Lindsay, who worked in Gore's White House office as a summer intern in 1998 and now works full time as assistant to the White House communications director.

"Hey, Bob, how are you feeling?" asked Gore, his voice broadcast over Drewel's speaker phone. "I just wanted you to know you're going to be in our thoughts and prayers." He added his congratulations on Drewel's re-election.

Drewel, a state steering-committee member on Gore's presidential campaign, told Gore he'll be back on his feet soon to work for the vice president.

Drewel and his wife, Cheryl, had scheduled a post-election Florida vacation, with tickets for a flight leaving today.

Instead, Drewel plans to spend the rest of November recuperating at home, he said.

Cooper, the urologist, predicted Drewel will go home from the hospital the day after his surgery.

Drewel will undergo a nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy, Cooper said.

Experts say that type of prostatectomy minimizes the likelihood of surgical side effects such as incontinence and impotence. The prostate lies between the rectum, the bladder and the muscles controlling urination.

This will be Drewel's third hospitalization since June 1998, when he collapsed in his office. That episode was blamed on exhaustion because medical tests turned up nothing serious. At that time, Drewel was board chairman of Sound Transit and board president of the Puget Sound Regional Council. As a result of his collapse, he stepped down from his post as Sound Transit chairman.

In May, Drewel underwent surgery for the removal of a section of his large intestine after noncancerous polyps were discovered. Those polyps were unrelated to the prostate cancer, he said yesterday.

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men, following lung cancer.

Yet, it's the most common type of cancer, Cooper said.

About 40 percent of men develop prostate cancer, but only 8 percent are aware of it, and only 3 percent die of it, he said. It's the slowest-growing cancer, Cooper said.

Diane Brooks' phone-message number is 425-745-7802. Her e-mail address is dbrooks@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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