Hugo Chavez says chemotherapy will make him bald

July 27, 2011 - 7:44 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Hugo Chavez told Venezuelans on Wednesday that he expects to lose his hair as a result of his cancer treatment.

Chavez underwent a first round of chemotherapy in Cuba last week, and he said he plans to keep working while undergoing more treatment. He joked that he may begin to look a bit like the bald actor Yul Brynner.

"Surely within not many days, you will see a bald Chavez. Do you remember Yul Brynner? I'll be a bit like Yul Chavez. My hair is going to start to fall out... for some months," he said in a telephone call broadcast live on state television.

Chavez said additional phases of chemotherapy will aim to "keep malignant cells from regenerating."

Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor, which he has said was the size of a baseball. He hasn't said what type of cancer he has been diagnosed with or specified where exactly it was located, saying only that it was in his pelvic region.

Chavez, who turns 57 on Thursday, said he feels that despite his condition he is "starting a new life."

"Look, I get excited and I'm going to keep working," Chavez said.

He spoke by phone during a televised event where his vice president, Elias Jaua, was addressing a crowd.

"You motivate me a lot to live," Chavez told the crowd. "I pray to God and I'm going to live with you. And we're going to win those elections next year."

The leftist president has been in office since 1999 and is seeking another six-year term in 2012. He has suggested in the past that he hopes to keep winning re-election to remain president for many years to come. On Wednesday, he expressed optimism that he is headed "for 2031."

Chavez said earlier Wednesday during a televised Cabinet meeting that his levels of white blood cells have decreased as a result of his chemotherapy. He said that due to his lower-than-normal immune defenses he has to be particularly careful not to catch an illness.