Bill Blake, the recently elected Merced city councilman and former undersheriff, was diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer in March, according to an announcement made by the city Wednesday.
Blake, 59, discovered he had cancer after he underwent a chest X-ray because he found it hard to breathe while he had the flu. The X-ray showed spots in his lung, which doctors later said were cancer. Blake, who stopped smoking 30 years ago, said the cancer isn't related to smoking.
"It's just a stroke of bad luck more than anything else," said Blake.
Reaction to the news on the council has been supportive.
City Councilman John Carlisle said it's a terrible event to happen to anybody, especially somebody who has so recently retired. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him," said Carlisle.
Councilwoman Michele Gabriault-Acosta said Blake has her support as well. "Being a cancer survivor, I know what he is going through," she said.
Blake said he doesn't yet know what the treatment for lung cancer involves or what the recovery rate is. "I still have more questions than answers," he said.
Despite the diagnosis, Blake intends to continue on with his duties as a councilman.
"If the disease or the treatment prevents me from effectively serving the people of Merced, I will step down," Blake said. But he added, "I plan to fight it."
Blake may be guardedly optimistic about his prospects, but his doctors were less so, he said. "I have not gotten a lot of good vibes."
So far the brunt of worry hasn't fallen as much on Blake as on his family. "I think they all took it quite hard," he said.
Blake worked for the Merced County Sheriff's Department for 38 years and was elected to the City Council in November 2009.
The National Cancer Institute estimated there were 219,440 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in 2009. The institute also estimated that 159,390 people died from lung cancer in that same year.
Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.