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Surgeons Remove Cancerous Kidney From Chicago Cardinal

June 12, 1995

MAYWOOD, Ill. (AP) _ Surgeons took out a cancerous kidney from Cardinal Joseph Bernardin on Monday, along with a golf-ball sized mass on his pancreas that they said might also be malignant.

``For the moment the news is good,″ said Dr. Gerard V. Aranha, the chief surgeon. ``Even if it was cancerous, it was small and contained.″

Doctors said Bernardin was awake and had spoken with his sister, several clergymen and his surgeons.

``We’re still not sure if there was pancreatic cancer, so the prognosis is uncertain,″ Aranha said. It could be 48 hours before test results come back.

Doctors also removed parts of Bernardin’s stomach, small intestine, bile duct and lymph nodes. They found a small benign tumor on Bernardin’s liver and removed it.

The 67-year-old leader of the 2.3-million member Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago spent seven hours and 20 minutes in surgery at Loyola University Cancer Center.

If the material taken from the pancreas proves benign, Bernardin may not need further treatment and the prognosis would be very good, Aranha said.

The cancerous cells found in Bernardin’s right kidney were apparently unrelated to the mass taken from the pancreas and the cancer has not spread, doctors said.

Bernardin was relaxed and joking before the surgery, said Rev. Michael Place, a close adviser. ``He is saying, `What God wants is what I’m yielding myself to,‴ Place said.

Tests had indicated that Bernardin had a tumor in the bile duct area near his pancreas and on his right kidney. Both kidney and bile duct cancer are considered less serious than pancreatic cancer, but doctors had said they didn’t know the nature of the growth on Bernardin’s pancreas.

Aranha said pancreatic cancer caught very early has a five-year survival rate of 20 percent to 25 percent, while bile duct cancer has a five-year survival rate of 50 percent.

The pancreas is an abdominal gland that produces insulin. Pancreatic cancer, which will strike about 24,000 Americans this year, is one of the most silent and rapidly spreading of cancers. Actor Michael Landon died of it in 1991, three months after he was diagnosed.

Surgeons undertook an operation that usually involves removing part of the stomach, the duodenum and usually half of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder and lymph nodes nearby.

More than 350 people turned out for a noon Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago while the surgery was in progress, a far larger number of worshipers than on most days. The Mass was dedicated to Bernardin.

``I stopped by just to pray in my mind that he’s well and that everything goes OK,″ said Catello Acanfora of Valparaiso, Ind. ``You think to yourself it could happen to anybody, but you hate to see it happen to such a decent man like him, no matter what religion you are.″

Bernardin was named to head the Chicago archdiocese in 1982. He has sought to repair divisions between traditionalists and progressives in the archdiocese.

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