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Cardinal Francis George: I thought I had licked cancer, but I didn’t

Updated: September 26, 2012 6:07AM

Cardinal Francis George, in his first public appearance since revealing last week that cancer was found in his liver and kidney, said he’s still awaiting final word on how bad it is and what his treatment will be.

The Chicago-born cardinal battled cancer six years ago. He had radical surgery to remove his cancerous bladder, prostate and part of his right ureter in July of 2006, spending 19 days at Loyola University Medical Center — and emerging cancer-free.

“The assumption was that after six years having had my bladder totally removed with no evidence of cancer that it was not just in remission but that it was cured,” the cardinal said Friday evening.

“I felt I licked something and I didn’t. So that isn’t a good feeling.”

George spoke briefly at Drury Lane Conference Center in Oak Brook Terrace, where he is attending the Noche de Gala a sold-out banquet attended by more than 1,000 Hispanic Catholics.

The cardinal took several questions and did not appear ill.

“I feel good. My appetite is good. I get tired a little bit, but I’m still continuing to do the administrative work,” he said. “The prayers of so many others are a great blessing for me and I count on them.”

The 75-year-old cardinal had cancer found in his kidney and liver last week. He said he will know more next week after his doctors analyze test results and consult with other doctors at the Mayo Clinic.

He might then have a better idea about his treatment, he said.

“I’m hoping that should it be chemo, and I’m not looking forward to that, I might get some hair which I haven’t had for a long time,” he said with a chuckle.

He expects to keep up his public schedule except for times when any treatment impacts his immune system

The cardinal, the leader of 2.4 million Catholics in Cook and Lake Counties, spent his annual retreat in Mundelein this week. George said he has not been in touch with the pope about the cancer discovery.

“I haven’t written the Holy Father yet because I don’t know what the situation is,” he said.

Asked how his illness would affect his retirement plans, the cardinal said “This might change the timeline a little bit.”

He added, “I’m very lucky to be the first one to live in this position long enough to retire and I was kind of looking forward to be able to do that.”

Cardinal George was asked how he was dealing spiritually with his illness.

“In the face of any other life-threatening illness we all live with the Lord as much as possible,” he said. “And so if this is a call to be with him for eternity then that’s a welcome call, but it’s also a fearful call because there’s so much that’s unknown.”

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