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Teary-eyed White House spokesman details cancer fight

Story Highlights

• White House spokesman Tony Snow returns to job after learning he has cancer
• "You never anticipate this stuff. It just happens," Snow told reporters
• Snow: "I am unbelievably lucky ... and really happy to be back"
• "Not everybody will survive cancer" so make the most of life, Snow said
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(CNN) -- The usually smooth and composed White House spokesman Tony Snow was at a loss for words Monday when he told the press corps about the return of his cancer.

"I'll try not to get choked up, so I'll go slow," he said.

Going slow didn't help. "You never anticipate this stuff," he said. "It just happens. I want to thank everybody in this room. You guys. ..."

At that, he stopped speaking, sighed heavily and gave the room of reporters a thumbs up.

"I'm not trying to feel sorry for myself, I'm just going to stop being choked up because you've been so wonderful," Snow told the group. (Watch Snow's emotional comments to reporters Video)

Snow returned to work for the first time since March, when he left to undergo exploratory surgery. Doctors determined that his cancer had returned and spread to his liver, the White House said.

Snow said he has recovered from the surgery and will now start receiving chemo treatments every other week for four months.

Despite the ongoing battle with cancer, Snow wasted no time jumping into the political fray on his first day back on the job.

Asked what President Bush will do with legislation that calls for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq to begin in October, Snow told CNN's "American Morning," "He vetoes it. Democrats will have made their political point. Now they can do their job." (The battle between the president and Congress over Iraq)

Snow called for a "clean bill" that does not impose "artificial timelines" or benchmarks.

"The problem with benchmarks at least as it's described is something where it doesn't even matter if there is progress, it doesn't matter if there is success," he said on "American Morning." (Watch Snow's interview with CNN's John Roberts Video)

On the subject of benchmarks, Snow said, "The Democratic Party hasn't even made its own for legislation this year."

He became the latest member of the administration to insist that the president did not use former CIA Director George Tenet's "slam dunk" comment as the reason to invade Iraq. (Full story)

"The fact is the best intelligence we had indicated weapons of mass destruction, but obviously we haven't been able to find them," Snow said.

Snow, 51, was first treated for colon cancer in 2005, at which time his colon was removed.

Colon cancer is something Snow has had to deal with before. His mother died of the disease at age 38 in 1973, when he was 17.

Snow said he is optimistic that he will be able to "turn what used to be a fatal disease into a chronic disease."

The mere mention of cancer used to cause absolute panic, but with medical advances, what used to be incurable is now curable, the White House spokesman said.

"There are a lot of people with situations worse than mine that have been living 20, 30 years by simply dealing with it with regular chemo," he told CNN. "They've been leading full and happy lives, and that's certainly what I hope to be doing."

Snow later told the White House reporters, "In my case, I am unbelievably lucky and unbelievably blessed and really happy to be back."

He said, "Not everybody will survive cancer. You've got to realize you've got the gift of life, so make the most of it."

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White House press secretary Tony Snow gives members of the media a thumbs up Monday on his first day back on the job.

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