Cardinal Francis George says his cancer, in remission for more than a year, "is beginning to show signs of new activity" and he will undergo a "more aggressive" round of chemotherapy.
The cardinal concedes that "this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death."
Writing in the Catholic New World, the newspaper of the Chicago archdiocese, the cardinal said the cancer "is still confined to the area of the right kidney."
"After many tests, scans, biopsies and other inconveniences, the settled judgment is that the best course of action is to enter into a regimen of chemotherapy, with drugs more aggressive than those that were used in the first round of chemo," the cardinal "This treatment will take place over the next two months, when my reaction to the chemo will be evaluated."
George was initially diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006. In August of 2012, he learned that the disease has returned to his kidney and liver, according to the archdiocese.
The form of cancer that struck George in 2006, called carcinoma in situ, was relatively unusual, accounting for about 10 percent of bladder cancer cases. The tumor was considered superficial — a flat growth limited to the wall of the bladder. But the cancer cells were of an aggressive type that could have spread rapidly to other parts of the body.
At the time, doctors did not believe the cancer had spread. But patients who have had bladder cancer are at increased risk for developing that cancer in their kidney or liver, outside doctors have told the Tribune.
The cardinal said the cancer "was dormant for well over a year" until it was detected again. He gave no date.
"As I prepare for this next round of chemo, I ask for your prayers, which have always sustained me, and for your understanding if I cannot always fulfill the schedule already set for the next several months," the cardinal wrote.
"While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death," he added. "Chemo is designed to shrink the tumor, prevent symptoms and prolong life."
George submitted his letter of resignation in 2012 when he turned 75, as all bishops are required to do. But Pope Francis has yet to accept the resignation.
The cardinal acknowledged that the latest news about his cancer "will increase speculation about my retirement. The only certainty is that no one knows when that will be, except perhaps the Holy Father, and he hasn’t told me."
"As required by the Code of Canon Law, I submitted my resignation two years ago and was told to wait until I heard from the pope," George said. "The consultation the pope makes through the Apostolic Nuncio takes a good number of months, and it hasn’t formally started yet."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun