Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has been diagnosed with stage two colon cancer, but he is recovering well after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor on Tuesday, Taipei Veterans General Hospital said yesterday.
“Lee is in stable condition and is recovering well because the cancerous cells were found and removed early,” hospital superintendent Lin Fang-yue (林芳郁) said, adding that details of Lee’s illness would be confirmed after a pathology report comes out in three to seven days.
During a regular physical check-up at the hospital on Monday, Lee was diagnosed with colon adenocarcinoma, the most common form of colorectal cancer.
He underwent two-and-a-half hours of surgery the following day to remove the tumor, which was estimated at 3.5cm by 2.5cm in size.
“A good recovery can be expected because the tumor was detected early,” Lin said. “The most important thing right now is for him to regain his strength.”
However, Lee is not really in a condition to receive visitors, he said.
“Many legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties, who have good relations with Lee, have come to the hospital to express their concern,” but they did not get to visit Lee, Lin said. “It’s not the right time for visits, given Lee’s age and the ordeal that he has just been through.”
Lin’s comments came amid media reports that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had visited the hospital on Wednesday afternoon, despite the hospital telling the Presidential Office that it was not a good time.
The Presidential Office had informed the hospital at 4:30pm that Ma would visit Lee, Lin said, adding that the hospital replied at 5pm that the 88-year-old former president was not in a condition to receive guests. Ma arrived at the hospital at 5:40pm and stayed for 10 minutes for a briefing by Lee’s medical team, Lin said.
Wang Yan-chun (王燕軍), director of Lee’s office, said the office had twice advised the Presidential Office against a visit from Ma because of Lee’s condition.
“We told the Presidential Office that Lee would not rule out meeting President Ma. However, he could not do it today,” Wang said, adding it has also turned down requests by many of Lee’s friends who wanted to pay a visit.
Ma was criticized by the pan-green camp for “politicizing” his visit to benefit his presidential re-election campaign by going to the hospital even after his request for a visit had been declined.
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said she would visit Lee at “the appropriate time.”
However, the Presidential Office yesterday denied Ma went to the hospital without informing Lee’s office about his visit.
Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said the office had informed Lee’s office before Ma decided to go to the hospital.
He said Ma just wanted to extend his best wishes to Lee.
“The president respected former president Lee’s wishes and he simply wanted to express his best wishes to the former president, who is also a former superintendent of the president,” Fan Chiang said.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih and CNA