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Dayton's 70th birthday not what he wanted

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announced his prostate cancer diagnosis Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, the day after he fainted while giving his State of the State speech. Maureen McMullen / Forum News Service1 / 2
Minn. Gov. Mark Dayton. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL — No one wants to celebrate a 70th birthday with a new cancer diagnosis and recent history of fainting on statewide television.

But that is what Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton faces Thursday, Jan. 26, when that landmark day arrives.

On Tuesday, he told reporters that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, scary but one of the most survivable types of the disease. That came little more than 16 hours after he collapsed while delivering his annual State of the State speech to 200 legislators, top political and government officials, invited guests including one of his sons and his first grandson and a statewide television and internet live-stream audience.

The Democratic governor said he does not think the two health issues are connected.

On the bright side, Dayton said, his second grandson is expected to be born this week.

"I want to give Minnesotans assurances that I am functioning normally, which I feel like I am," he said.

Dayton said he does not know how doctors will treat his cancer, believed confined to the prostate. He plans a trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., next week to discuss that.

"It is one of their best success stories," he said about dealing with prostate cancer.

His father, Bruce, found out he had prostate cancer 25 years before died at 97.

On Tuesday, he visited Mayo about his Monday night fainting spell.

"Mayo Clinic believes this episode was situational and related to standing for a long time while giving his speech and possible dehydration," Mayo spokesman Karl Oestreich said. "It is not related to his prostate cancer diagnosis. He was encouraged to stay hydrated. Gov. Dayton remains upbeat and looks forward to his follow up appointments next week."

Oestreich the prostate cancer was discovered during Dayton's annual physical examination at Mayo. "A biopsy last Wednesday confirmed the diagnosis. He has follow up appointments next week to determine further steps."

Dayton said he planned to tell the public about it next week, after he learns how it could be treated. However, after Monday night's fainting episode, his staff encouraged him to tell people Tuesday.

Dayton's health become the prime issue of his State of the State speech Monday night when he collapsed after talking 45 minutes, just before he was to talk about health care funding.

On Tuesday, he said that he did not recall hitting his head on the podium, but thought he was unconscious just a few seconds.

Dayton's Mayo Clinic doctor saw tweets about the fainting spell Monday night and called him, the governor said. With medics still at his home to check him over, the doctor said it would be best for him to spend the night in his own bed and then go to an appointment Tuesday.

He stumbled on a chair when going up to the podium before the speech, he said, but that was not related to him fainting. He said he "was not aware of any problem" until less than a minute before he collapsed.

Soon after he returned home Monday night, he was working on a puzzle with his 4-year-old grandson, Hugo.

The governor fainted almost a year ago, while attending a Woodbury political event. He spent overnight in a hospital, leaving with doctors saying he had been dehydrated.

Dayton has other health history in recent years, including two spinal surgeries.

Lawmakers looking on called the Monday night incident frightening and scary. Those from both parties offered their prayers.

The governor's slurred speech and shaky movement immediately worried legislators with medical backgrounds.

An emergency medical technician of more than 20 years, Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, acted before Dayton collapsed.

"This was not my first rodeo," Backer said. "When he stopped and took a drink, I got up right away, and ran around the side of the aisle."

In his sprint to the front of the chamber, he called for Rep. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, a paramedic.

Newberger and Backer were joined by Sen. Dan Schoen, D-St. Paul Paul, a paramedic, and Sens. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, and Matt Klein, D-Mendota Heights, both doctors.

Backer said he was proud of the cooperation among other legislators, who had never worked together in a medical setting before.

"We all work together, that's the typical Minnesota style," he said. "Everyone played a role, and I was happy to help the governor of the state of Minnesota."

Maureen McMullen contributed to this story.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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