In his first public appearance since being told he had cancerous cells in his kidney and liver, Cardinal Francis George said Friday he's awaiting word from doctors about official test results and potential treatment options.
George spoke to reporters before attending the annual Hispanic Ministry Awards Banquet, Noche de Gala, at the Drury Lane conference center in Oakbrook Terrace.
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The 75-year-old cardinal, who serves as leader of the archdiocese of Chicago encompassing Cook and Lake counties, survived cancer in 2006, when he underwent a risky procedure to remove his bladder, prostate and a portion of his right ureter.
He said Friday he had been going in for checkups every three months right after the surgery -- then every six months in the recent past.
"The assumption was 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," George said. "I felt I licked something and I didn't. So that isn't a good feeling."
Last week, doctors told him that preliminary test results showed there to be cancerous cells in his kidney and in a nodule that was removed from the liver. George underwent additional tests earlier this week.
The cardinal said he'll talk again with his doctors -- including some at the Mayo Clinic -- early next week. Should he be told he will have to undergo chemotherapy, he said he's not looking forward to it, but that he'll continue with his public schedule as much as possible.
Until he gets a better diagnosis from doctors, George said it's too early to say whether his condition would preclude him from remaining at the helm of the archdiocese -- a position he's held for 15 years.
Other than feeling "a little weakened" after a recent biopsy, George says he feels "good."
In January, George sent Pope Benedict XVI a resignation letter -- standard procedure for bishops once they turn 75 -- though it was expected the pope would allow him to remain in the leadership post in the short term.
"Even without cancer, I envisioned a scenario where I would be able to retire as archbishop of Chicago. This might change the timeline a little bit," George said Friday. "I'm very lucky to be the first one to live with this position long enough to retire and I'm hoping to be able to do that."
George's predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 68.
George said he would keep the pope apprised of his health situation after hearing from doctors.
"If this is a call to be with (the Lord) for eternity, then that's a welcome call in that sense. But it's also a fearful call because there's so much that's unknown," George said. "I find prayer to be an enormous part of my life that anchors things. Especially at this crisis, the prayers of so many others are a great blessing for me and I count on them."