Retired King Says Cancer Has Returned

Retired King Norodom Siha­nouk has been diagnosed with cancer for the third time in 15 years but his Chinese doctors are confident the disease can be defeated, the former King announced Thursday.

In a written message to his monthly bulletin released Thurs­day by the Royal Palace, the 86-year-old retired King said his doctors believe his recurrent B-cell lymphoma has not yet spread throughout his body.

“My eminent […] Doctors, who succeeded in healing my 2 previous extremely serious cancers, tell me that the current one (this 3rd one) is situated in a part of my body which will allow relatively simpler and easier treatment. In this regard, they are ‘optimistic’ (sic!),” he wrote.

B-cell lymphoma, a cancer affecting blood cells crucial to the body’s immune defenses, was discovered in 1993 in the retired King’s prost­ate gland and recurred in 2005 as a gastric lymphoma. Norodom Sihanouk underwent chemotherapy in both cases.

In a Dec 23 message marked “confidential” but e-mailed Thursday to the press from Beijing, Norodom Sihanouk said that his cancer treatment would delay his return to Cambodia.

“I am undergoing in Beijing an appropriate medical treatment,” he wrote.

“Due to my cancer, my return to the Motherland, previously set for February 2009, shall take place several months after February 2009, when my eminent [Chinese] doctors shall have healed me,” he wrote.

“I ask with insistence that my beloved Compatriots and Foreign Friends not write to me or visit me. (My eminent Chinese doctors are prescribing complete rest and distance from worries of all sorts.)”

In a public statement on Dec 1, the retired King said his health had begun to deteriorate and that he was prepared to die at his Beijing residence. However, the palace subsequently announced that he had recovered from a bout of hypertension.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a recently appointed advisor to King Norodom Sihamoni, said Thursday that it was shortly after this that the former King was diagnosed with cancer.

“We haven’t got the health reports, so it’s difficult to speculate on the type of lymphoma,” he said.

Dr Eav Sokha, director of oncology at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Chamkar Mon district, said Thursday that the gravity of Norodom Sihanouk’s diagnosis depends on the precise form of cancer which he has developed.

Recent medical advances allow doctors to treat localized lymphomas using methods that are far less toxic than previous chemotherapy treatments, he said, adding that a localized, or “non-aggressive,” B-cell lymphoma is therefore easier to treat.

“But if it’s the aggressive form of lymphoma, the treatment is effective but it’s much harder to eradicate,” he said.

In his written statement on Thursday, Norodom Sihanouk said that he would allow state television to broadcast his films on Monday evenings as an homage to his loyalists.

“Due to my new cancer and as an homage to the Sihanoukists who love my ‘Royal Singing’ & little films, and at the request of certain among these Sihanoukists, I agree that TVK (every Monday evening after the local and international news and…weather) should air a ‘Royal Singing,’ a short film by HRH Samdech Bopha Devi based on my music, the film ‘Andromak’ (to be completed at my expense and in the good care of Samdech Kong Sam Ol and Senator [Ieu] Pannakar),” he wrote.

“Due to this absence of N Sihanouk, there shall be these projections of ‘my’ little films by TVK, every Monday evening, as testimony to my devoted concern for my beloved compatriots.”


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