Cancer Scare Changes Johanns' Outlook


A cancer scare gives Senator Mike Johanns a new outlook on life, as he announces the end of a 30 year political career.

"Thought I had cancer, a very dangerous kind – lung cancer," he said.

Johanns said he's blessed. Four years ago he went into surgery believing he had cancer.

Doctors found nothing, but Johanns learned something about himself, as he began an evaluation about his career and life. And the result is his decision to walk away from public office.

"Stephanie and I talked about it, thought about it, prayed about it," he said.

The last four years have also been difficult politically. Just recently he has found himself at odds with fellow Republicans over the confirmation of Retired Sen. Chuck Hagel, whose seat he now holds. While partisan bickering frustrates many, he said that's not the reason he's planning his departure.

Johanns said, "You pick up the frustration and that outright anger that people feel. We owe more to our citizens, but that wasn't the motivating factor in this case."

As he visited Preferred Popcorn near Chapman, he talked about giving up smoking and drinking to focus on a healthier lifestyle.

He said, "I feel like I'm 35. I feel great." He added he's watching his weight and working out.

With the end of his senate term in two years, Mike and Stephanie Johanns will have served 32 years in eight different offices, starting with the Lancaster County Commission.

Mike Johanns' biggest impact came in the last 15 years, as governor, secretary of agriculture, and senator.

"All three of those positions he's had Nebraska agriculture in the back of his mind," Preferred Popcorn's Norm Krug said. "He's very knowledgeable, and just always making the right decision for Nebraska farmers."

Johanns says he now has friends like Krug from his travels to "every nook and cranny" across the state.

But the senator said it's time to serve a different constituency.

"Best job in the world is playing grandpa."

He certainly wants more time with his wife, kids, and five grand kids, but says he's not done yet.

He said, "I don't plan on retiring. I intend to stay very, very active but it will be different. It will be more flexible and a quieter lifestyle."

When asked who he would support as his replacement, he praised Gov. Dave Heineman who served as his lieutenant governor. However, he said he expects many qualified people to consider running.