Cardinal George is thanking Chicago-area Catholics and others for their prayers as he begins a four-month course of chemotherapy designed to treat the cancer found in his liver and right kidney in August.
“I find prayer to be an enormous part of my life that anchors things,” Cardinal George said at an impromptu press conference Aug. 24. “Especially at this crisis, the prayers of so many others are a great blessing to me, and I count on them. I’m very grateful.”
The cardinal said he was especially grateful for the prayers of fellow cancer patients and survivors, for whom he also has been praying since surgery for bladder cancer six years ago.
Wellwishers can offer prayers and support by visiting www.archchicago.org. (See box in fourth column.)
His doctors at Loyola University Medical Center met with the cardinal Aug. 27 after having consulted with his doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and laid out a course of treatment that includes six chemotherapy sessions, each lasting two weeks, with a week free of chemotherapy between sessions to allow his immune system to recuperate.
According to a statement from the archdiocese, the cardinal will maintain his work schedule as much as possible during his treatment, although his public appearances will likely be reduced when his immune system is weakened.
He continued to attend events in the days leading up to Sept. 5, the scheduled beginning of his chemotherapy, attending the Noche de Gala celebration Aug. 24, the dedication of the new chapel at St. Joseph College Seminary Aug. 28 and the 125th anniversary Mass at St. Joseph Parish, 1723 W. 48th St., Sept. 1.
When he entered St. Joseph Church on his way to the sacristy to vest for Mass, he received a standing ovation from those in the pews. The parish said it was grateful the cardinal still attended their Mass despite his diagnosis.
The cardinal joked about the possibility of undergoing chemo when he met with reporters at the Noche de Gala, before he knew what his treatment would be, saying, “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 very long time.”
The cardinal had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI last January on his 75th birthday, as all bishops are required to do. The pope generally does not accept the resignations of cardinals immediately, and most observers expected Cardinal George to remain as archbishop of Chicago for at least another year or more. His illness could change the time frame on which his resignation is accepted, the cardinal said.
His current battle with cancer became public after an Aug. 15 biopsy found cancer cells in a nodule in his liver and more cancer cells in his right kidney. Further tests “did not conclude with certainty that there is cancer elsewhere in his body,” although cancer cells can reside undetected in the bloodstream, according to an archdiocesan statement.
He had his bladder, right ureter and prostate gland removed in 2006 after doctors found cancer cells in his bladder, and he said he had hoped that, after six years, he was cured.
“I felt I’d licked something and I didn’t,” he said. “That isn’t a good feeling.”
He also acknowledged some trepidation about what the future holds. “We all live with the Lord as much as possible,” he said. “If this a call to be with him for eternity, then that’s a welcome call in that sense, but it’s also a fearful call because so much is unknown.”
When treatment is completed, the archdiocese will share the doctors’ analysis of his condition, according to its statement.