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Cardinal George Maintaining Busy Schedule Despite Cancer Recurrence

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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Updated 03/10/14 – 8:01 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Francis Cardinal George is not slowing down, despite looming treatments for recurrent cancer in his right kidney.

Saturday morning, he presided over confirmation at St. Clement’s Church in Lincoln Park and Saturday night he attended the Presence Health Ball at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel. On Thursday night, he spoke at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on the emphasis by Pope Francis on mercy and its implications for the church’s teaching and engagement with the world.

On Sunday, he attended mass at St. James Catholic Church in Sauk Village.

“The treatments started on Ash Wednesday, and I feel okay,” he said. “You know, chemo’s poison. A lot of people have had it, and they know what it means, and with me at least, I’m experiencing a little lightheadedness because of it, but otherwise I feel pretty good.”

George said said his doctors advised him feeling light-headed is to be expected with his current chemotherapy regimen.

He laughed freely when asked questions by reporters, and spokesperson Colleen Dolan said Cardinal George is upbeat.

Cardinal George said he will continue to maintain his schedule until doctors tell him to cut back in about a week, because of the weaknesses and vulnerabilities to infection caused by chemotherapy.

The disease is known formally as urothelial cancer. He was diagnosed in August 2012.

Dolan said his attitude about the recurrent cancer is to let the public know and let them pray, but to let him do his job.

“I’m not thinking so much of example as I am thinking of containing the damage,” and not letting rumors get started, he said outside the Presence dinner.

Dolan said there is no sign that the cancer has spread beyond his right kidney. And although he wrote in the Archdiocesan newspaper “Catholic New World” that the cancer is what will probably kill him, he does not expect that soon.

The Vatican apparently agrees. It has been two years since Cardinal George submitted his resignation, as required by church law when a bishop turns 75; neither Pope Francis nor his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, accepted it. And Dolan said there has been no move to begin the period of consultation leading to a replacement, which lasts at least six months and will include the Cardinal so long as he is physically able.

Cardinal George said he has not heard from Pope Francis since the diagnosis, but said he has heard from many others wishing him well.

“I always have, whenever you’re sick,” he said. “Sick people feel support. They really do. … Whenever you get sick, people step up and say, ‘We’re praying for you,’ and that’s very comforting.”