New London Mayor Shares Brush with Colon Cancer

It had been many years since Mayor Gary Henke went to see a doctor. When his new family physician, Dr. Donn Fuhrmann at ThedaCare Physicians-New London, suggested he get a colonoscopy, Mayor Henke agreed. “I guess it’s just something I never really worried about,” said Mayor Henke, 71, who never had the procedure, which is used to screen for cancer.

The New London mayor is glad he followed his doctor’s advice over a year ago. The colonoscopy revealed many polyps. One was embedded so he had another procedure to remove it. It was discovered to be cancerous so his surgeon recommended a small segment of the colon be removed to make sure the entire cancerous area was removed.

Another colonoscopy a few weeks ago gave Mayor Henke a clean bill of health. “They felt they got everything,” he said. “I didn’t need any chemo. I was very fortunate.”

Now Mayor Henke will gladly recommend a colonoscopy to anyone he comes by, noting guidelines recommend the procedure should begin at age 50. “I highly recommend every body should have one and keep up with them.”

Mayor Henke’s grandmother had colon cancer, but he never considered he’d need to watch out for it himself. “It was good that it happened when it did,” he said.

Many people shy away from the idea of a colonoscopy, in part because of fears and uncertainty. “You always hear nightmares about having a colonoscopy,” he said. “They are a piece of cake.  It really isn’t bad at all. Go and have it done.”

Dr. Fuhrmann said Mayor Henke’s “experience shows us that everyone is at risk for colon cancer and that anyone can have a colonoscopy and find polyps or an early cancer. “They do find colon cancers but even more importantly they find colonic polyps before they change into (colon cancers). Therefore, they can prevent people from even developing colon cancers.”

Mayor Henke said people should put aside their fears. “You should have one because it beats the alternative of death,” he said. “And it’s something that basically, very easily, can be taken care of without going through pain or any discomfort. Everybody should have one. Period.”