Washington County’s longest-serving commissioner has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Gary Kriesel has non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer, but he hasn’t missed any regular County Board meetings because of it. Kriesel said last week that he suspected something was wrong in November when he discovered a lump on his arm.
“I’m taking it a day at a time,” said Kriesel, 71.
Known for having the fullest head of hair among the men in the meeting room, Kriesel now has lost all of it because of treatments. A military veteran, he’s begun wearing a blue cap at board meetings that reads “NAVY” across the front.
“I’ve got a lot of compassion for people who experience cancer,” he said of his illness. “I trust my oncologist and higher power. It’s in their hands.”
Kriesel also said he’s quit smoking, a habit he started when he was 15.
His medical treatments include six rounds of chemotherapy, he said. He’s about to begin his third round and said that so far, he’s had “zero side effects” from the treatments.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system. Those cells are housed in lymph nodes throughout the body.
Kriesel, a former Stillwater City Council member, was first elected to the County Board in 2004 to represent Stillwater and other mid-county cities and townships. He was re-elected in 2008 and 2012.
He represents Washington County on numerous regional committees and boards on issues such as transportation, energy, planning and solid waste. He said he’s missed a few of those meetings because of chemotherapy treatment. In his absence, one of the other four commissioners has filled in. Otherwise, Kriesel has attended all regular County Board meetings, held Tuesdays in Stillwater. “I get up every morning enjoying what I’m doing,” he said. “Right now lymphoma is a distraction.”