Col. Tom Brewer, who announced a surprising Republican primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith earlier this month, dropped another shocker Saturday.
He has leukemia.
And, Brewer says, he's staying in the race.
Brewer said that the cancer was caught early and that his doctors say it is “very treatable,” with a high rate of success and remission.
He said he was told that the form of cancer he has may be linked to his military service in Afghanistan, where he oversaw the use of herbicides to wipe out opium fields.
“I received confirmation of the cancer from my doctors just a few days before my announcement to run for Congress,” Brewer said in a written statement.
“After consulting with my physicians and family, we made the decision to go forward with the campaign as planned. My doctors are optimistic that the cancer was caught early; it is a very treatable form of leukemia, with a high percentage of success and remission.”
Brewer, 55, served 36 years in the military, with most of those years in the Nebraska National Guard. He has been deployed to Afghanistan six times and seriously wounded twice in ambushes.
His cancer diagnosis was discovered during ongoing treatment for wounds he suffered on his last Afghanistan tour.
Brewer retired from the military in early January.
Soon after, he announced he would make his first bid for office, seeking to wrest the Republican nomination from Smith in western Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District. Smith has represented the 3rd District since 2007.
The primary election is set for May 13.
Brewer has a form of cancer known as “hairy cell leukemia.” He said he is undergoing a six-week treatment plan of chemotherapy at the Midwest Cancer Center in Papillion.
Brewer plans to continue to campaign while undergoing treatment.
According to the National Cancer Institute, hairy-cell leukemia is a rare cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It is so named because the leukemia cells look “hairy” under a microscope.
The cancer institute reports on its website that treatment for this form of leukemia often results in the cancer going into “long-lasting remission.” And, if it returns, a second round of treatment “often causes another remission.”
Brewer's form of cancer was officially recognized in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as one of several cancers and diseases “presumptively” associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents.
Brewer said he came into contact with the suspected herbicide during his Afghanistan assignment, when he provided support to U.S. Central Command's Counter Narcotics Task Force.