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Cardinal George: doctors have ‘run out of tricks in the bag’ for him

Speaking at an award ceremony for himself in downtown Chicago on Friday, Cardinal Francis George said his doctors have “run out of tricks in the bag” to treat his cancer.

Doctors have exhausted the normal treatment usually used for his cancer, and are therefore taking a “see what happens when you’re on your own” approach, George said.

“We are putting it in the hands of God — as we all are in some fashion — and that will develop as it does,” he said. “This particular disease in my case has not been following the usual pattern in the past. It probably won’t follow the usual pattern in the future.”

George had radical surgery to remove his cancerous bladder, prostate and part of his right ureter in July 2006. He spent 19 days at Loyola University Medical Center and emerged cancer-free at the time.

But then in March 2014, he revealed that he was undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer surrounding his right kidney and that he expected the cancer to likely be the cause of his death.

These days, “much of my life is now determined by my health,” said George, who used crutches to get to and from the lectern to make his remarks. He has been using them more regularly since about October.

“There are days when you can do anything you like. And there are days when you can’t,” George said. “That’s true for anyone with a chronic illness.”

That uncertainty, George said, “always leads to an attitude that says, ‘Well, I’ll take the time I have as a gift. And recognize that I can’t take anything for granted.”

He said he still plans to go to Rome to see Pope Francis.

George made these remarks speaking to the media after winning the Knights of Columbus’ highest award Friday.

The Gaudium et Spes Award was established by the Knights of Columbus in 1992, with Mother Teresa as its first recipient. Cardinal George has been a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1991.

In reading the award’s citation, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, noted that George was the first Chicago native to shepherd the church in the Windy City, the third-largest archdiocese in the country, which he led with grace, humility and intelligence.”

Lori also noted George’s “courage and strength” during his battle with cancer.

George got a standing ovation and long applause from the group of about 75 people, both when he got up to speak and after he was done.

After his award ceremony, George said not being the Archbishop of Chicago anymore “makes my life a lot easier,” as he no longer has to worry about the ramifications his decisions might have in people’s lives.

“I don’t have that responsibility the same way. And I’m grateful for that. The time had come,” he said.

George said he does confessions at Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. Wabash Ave., on Thursdays when he can manage.

He also is doing physical therapy. His muscles had atrophied because chemotherapy often left him too exhausted to exercise.

His goal is to “reactivate them,” so he can get off his crutches, he said.

George retired in November as archbishop of Chicago and was succeeded by Archbishop Blase Cupich. Cupich, also a member of the Knights of Columbus, gave the invocation before George received his award. The luncheon was held at the Four Seasons Hotel, 120 E. Delaware Pl.

George also received a $100,000 check from the Knights of Columbus. The check came with the award. George will be donating the check to Catholic Charities.

Founded in 1882, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, with more than 1.8 million members worldwide, the organization said.