WASHINGTON (AP ) – Coping with cancer, White House press secretary Tony Snow returned to work Monday and declared himself “unbelievably lucky and unbelievably blessed” as he prepares to undergo chemotherapy.

“Anybody who does not believe that thoughts and prayers make a difference – they’re just wrong,” Snow said from behind the podium during the regular morning briefing.

Snow, 51, returned to work five weeks after doctors discovered a recurrence of his cancer.

He briefly became overcome with emotion after reporters welcomed him with a round of applause.

“Thank you so much,” Snow said, taking pauses to compose himself. “It’s great to be back.”

Snow had his colon removed in 2005 and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer. On March 26, he underwent surgery to remove a growth in his abdominal area, and doctors determined that cancer had metastasized, or spread, to the liver.

“Now I know the first reaction of people when they hear the word cancer is ‘uh-oh,’ but we live in kind of a different medical situation than we used to,” Snow said. He will start chemotherapy Friday, using agents that he said weren’t widely available during his last bout with cancer.

“The design is to throw it into remission and transform it into a chronic disease,” Snow said. “If cancer is merely a nuisance for a long period of time, that’s fine with me.”

The morning briefing by the press secretary, known as the “gaggle,” is typically informal and off-camera. But the White House put the first portion of the session on live TV on request of the networks, reflecting the interest in Snow’s return as a news story.

Snow started typically early, appearing Monday on the North Lawn of the White House for a series of morning television network news shows, including an interview on “Fox and Friends,” with his former Fox network colleagues.

Snow plans to go through treatments every other week for four months. He said he would not make predications about his health, but felt optimistic.

“I’m unbelievably lucky and unbelievably blessed and really happy to be back,” Snow said.

A former radio and TV commentator, Snow brought his smooth camera-ready style to an embattled White House last May. He quickly became the public face of Bush’s daily communications and has spoken openly – and emotionally – about being a cancer survivor.

It is common for colon cancer patients to suffer a recurrence of cancer, and the most common site is the liver. Medical experts say advances in chemotherapy can allow people with the type of cancer Snow has to return to work and good health for years.

AP-ES-04-30-07 1105EDT

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