CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez checked in to a military hospital Saturday night to begin a third round of chemotherapy, this time getting the cancer treatment at home rather than Cuba.
Chavez walked into the Dr. Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital accompanied by his daughter Maria and aides. He said his treatment has been going well and aims to prevent reappearance of cancer cells more than two months after he underwent surgery.
"I'm coming in the best shape," Chavez said on television as he was led through the hospital. "I'll come out of here strengthened."
He said earlier on television that he and his team of Cuban and Venezuelan doctors decided it would be all right for him to undergo chemotherapy in Venezuela after his latest round of medical tests Friday. "The conditions are in place to do this third cycle here," he said.
"I'm determined to continue living," Chavez said at the hospital. "It's not time to die. What we have to do still is a great deal."
Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, has vowed to bounce back and win re-election in 2012.
Before going to the hospital, Chavez appeared on a balcony of the presidential palace waving to a crowd of cheering supporters. They included a group that played Afro-Venezuelan music, beating on drums and dancing. Some chanted: "Onward, commander!"
The leftist leader swung his hips to the music and saluted black Venezuelans, saying: "Down with racism."
Chavez expressed optimism that he is overcoming cancer, referring to the "illness I had." He said he was making arrangements with his vice president, Elias Jaua, and other officials in order to "continue with this rhythm of treatment."
Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba that removed a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region in June. He has not specified where the tumor was located but said the latest follow-up tests haven't detected any sign of malignant cells in his body. He said the chemotherapy is a preventive measure.
Chavez has appeared with his head shaved the past few weeks after his hair began to fall out as a result of chemotherapy.
The president said during a televised Cabinet meeting on Saturday that he expects to disappear from public view in the coming days but will remain in contact with government officials and his supporters by phone and Twitter.
"In the coming hours, between today and tomorrow we'll be preparing for the third cycle," Chavez said.