Mayor Rogers announces he has stage 4 liver cancer, will continue role as mayor

Burbank Mayor Will Rogers gestures during a City Council meeting in 2015.
(Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)

Surrounded by his City Council colleagues and the media, Burbank Mayor Will Rogers announced on Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer and non-alcoholic cirrhosis.

“Like every one of us here today, I don’t know if I have another week or another five weeks,” Rogers said during a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

For the last two years, Rogers, 60, said his doctors have diagnosed him and have cleared him of any cancer four times, but his recent diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma, one of the most common forms of liver cancer, was much more serious than the rest.

The mayor said he had none of the symptoms of liver cancer or non-alcoholic cirrhosis. Also, there has been no history of either of the illnesses in his family.

“[A] liver transplant is not a viable option nor is traditional chemotherapy,” Rogers said. “I’ve been working with a cancer research clinic affiliated with Cedars-Sinai [Medical Center], where I’m participating in drug trials and immunotherapy.”

Despite his diagnosis, Rogers said that he will continue to serve as mayor but will attend fewer city activities.

His council colleagues will step in for him at events whenever he is unable to attend.

“I think all of our roles change, but we’ll be continuing the hard work of the city,” Vice Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy said. “For the issues that come up, we’ll be tackling them and, if during those times Will needs to spend time focusing on his health challenges, then that will be good with us.”

Councilman Jess Talamantes said he was aware Rogers had been dealing with some health issues but did not know the extent of the mayor’s illness.

Talamantes and the other council members learned about Rogers’ diagnosis last week while they were at a conference in Sacramento.

“We’re here to help him,” Talamantes said. “I’ve offered my services to him, whatever I can do to help and make the transition better.”

Though there was a somber tone that afternoon, Rogers managed to sneak in a joke about his physician, Dr. Samuel Klempner.

“Don’t be thrown off by the fact that he looks about 12 years old,” Rogers said. “I trust him implicitly, but yes, I’m also concerned that he looks 12 years old.”

Rogers said after the press conference there are times he would much rather be at home and asleep than be at an event or at a council meeting, but resignation is not an option for him as long as he believes he has something — and the energy — to contribute.

“I feel like I’ve got so much left to give,” Rogers said. “I really enjoy it. I feel like I’m doing some good, and I would like to keep doing that.”

Twitter: @acocarpio


4:35 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about how council members will help Burbank Mayor Will Rogers in the future. This story was originally published at 3:25 p.m.