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Former ‘Almanac’ host Jan Smaby begins breast cancer fight

Sometime during the ’80s when I was at the Twin Cities Reader, I remember writing, “Only in Minnesota would we have a celebrity bureaucrat.”

That bureaucrat was Jan Smaby, Hennepin County’s welfare director, better known as the garrulous original co-host of KTCA’s “Almanac” from 1984 to 1994. In other words, whippersnappers, she was Cathy Wurzer: The Prequel, and there was a time when Jan’s sharp questions and big laugh seemed everywhere.

Jan now, 60, retired to a southeastern Minnesota hay farm after leaving the county in 2002, though she still moonlights for KTCA and Mother Hennepin.

Sadly, over the weekend, Jan let friends know she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. In an email (below) she writes, “I do not consider this info ‘private’ so if you think there is someone who should know this, feel free to share.”

I figure there are thousands of Minnesotans who consider Jan a friend, and she graciously agreed to let me pass her note along. Those who know her can hear the spirit in it. Though her treatment, which begins soon, has forced her to leave a Hennepin County crime lab task force, she’s buoyed by her doctor, who’s survived the same condition, and her husband Alan, a retired professor of veterinary surgery.

Her only concern: She may not have time to write a “thank you” to everyone. I think her friends, who know how Minnesotans can turn an obligation into a burden, will give her a pass on that one. Jan’s email address is at the bottom — just replace the [ at ] with @.

My dear friends,

I love e-mail for its ease but dislike it for its sterility, so while I would prefer to share this with all of you by phone or hand-written note… that ain’t gonna happen.

I learned about 10 days ago that I have breast cancer. In fact, this cancer may (finally) explain why I had a stroke last August … a little more on that later.

My cancer is the most common form of breast cancer that women get (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) and it is also one of the most ‘treatable”. I will require surgery and depending upon my chosen path (mastectomy or lumpectomy) I will also undergo radiation therapy. I do not yet know if I also will need chemotherapy — another test this coming week plus the results of surgery will clarify that issue.

Due to my stroke last August, I have had to undergo a few other tests regarding my heart before the surgeons get to work. I do not anticipate surgery will happen for at least another week as I complete some of these tests and take time to really understand all my options. Please know that Alan and I have absolute confidence in all of the medical folk I am seeing. In fact, I feel I have an ’embarassment of riches’ when it comes to my health care options in that I am now deciding between having Mayo Clinic do it all or share duties with Olmsted Clinic and at each place, I am surrounded by reknowned physicians and nurses.

My spirits are excellent and despite the fact I have had a stroke and now cancer, I am one very healthy woman !! I am passing every test they have and are giving me now with A+’s. So, I also have an excellent physical reserve to call upon.

My only complaint, which I have had for the past year, is my tiredness that comes upon me each day. Yet, as I shared, every test they have run shows me to be in excellent health and the docs do not believe the cancerous tumor in my breast could cause such weariness.

Now … why the cancer may have been the cause of my mild stroke: cancer can cause hypercoagulation of the blood … thus a blood clot got formed and spun off to my brain.

Alan or I will keep you updated as things progress … that we promise. And, I know I have your love and strength — after all, that’s why I love you all so very much and am blessed to have you as friends.

Finally, I do not consider this info ‘private’ so if you think there is someone who should know this, feel free to share.

I am off to organize my tack room for the winter and groom a few horses now that the rain has finally stopped ! It is beautiful down here….even with most of the leaves gone.

Love to you all,
jan ingrid
Jan Smaby and Alan Lipowitz
Lost Creek Farm
Peterson, MN
janalan [at]

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