Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tossed a softball overhand with gusto Thursday, said his latest medical checks have been stellar and ridiculed rumors that his health might have taken a turn for the worse.
Chavez said he is bouncing back vigorously from chemotherapy and gaining weight more than three months after he had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region. He declined to say what type of cancer he was diagnosed with.
"You want me to tell you more? What for?" Chavez said when asked about the cancer at a news conference. "Go to the hospital and ask any person who has cancer: ... 'What is it that you have? And what type is it?' Isn't there something morbid in that?"
"I had a tumor. Now, what do you want me to tell you? That I take the tumor and explain to you here what type of tumor it was and the causes?" Chavez said. "I'm not going to gratify you. A malignant tumor. What more do you all want? ... I had it here, they extracted it."
Chavez motioned to the area where he said the tumor was removed, indicating a vertical incision on his abdomen crossing his waist line. The president said he saw images of the tumor, which was about the size of a baseball, and he held up a baseball as he described the operation.
He reiterated that all of his medical checks have shown no sign of any resurgence of the cancer.
"My latest tests, all of them, have shown very positive results," he said.
"Here I am. I'm not in my best shape," Chavez acknowledged, saying that is to be expected after chemotherapy. But he also said he has been lifting weights and is recovering smoothly.
"I'm my own response. And the life I lead from now on, with the grace of God, will be the response, the new Chavez," said the president, who is running for re-election in 2012.
Chavez dismissed a report in a U.S. newspaper, El Nuevo Herald of Miami, that cited anonymous sources saying he had been hospitalized and that his condition might be deteriorating. He read aloud portions of the report to journalists outside the doors of the presidential palace.
"They've got me on dialysis," Chavez said with a laugh, denying it.
Chavez had been largely out of sight since returning from Cuba last week after a fourth round of chemotherapy that he has said would be his last.
He said in a telephone call broadcast on television earlier Thursday that he is taking steroids and other medicines as he recovers from the chemotherapy.
He said he is working at "half throttle" while the effects of the treatment pass.
"I'm going to completely get out of this soon," Chavez said.
The 57-year-old leader said his body has coped well with chemotherapy and assured Venezuelans he will keep them informed.
"I would be the first ... to communicate any difficulty in the process. None beyond the normal has come up," Chavez said.
Chavez has provided regular updates on his condition since he announced in a prerecorded video aired June 30 that he had undergone surgery for cancer. He said later that the surgery to remove the tumor was performed June 20.
The president's critics have complained that he has kept secret some key details about his illness.
Chavez said he has provided ample information. He reiterated that his tumor had been "encapsulated" when it was removed and it hadn't affected his colon or organs.
"I had cancer, in a ball that was removed," Chavez said, holding up the baseball.
Later, he pitched a softball to his foreign minister outside the palace, smiling and throwing his weight behind each toss.
Ian James on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ianjamesap