Upbeat Mandela confident he will win cancer battle

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The former South African president Nelson Mandela has dismissed reports that his prostate cancer is more serious than was initially thought, and says he is inspired by other people who have won the battle against cancer.

"I do feel that you can fight cancer and win," Mr Mandela said in an exclusive interview with Independent Newspapers at his office in Houghton, anexclusive suburb of Johannesburg. Mr Mandela looked relaxed but took questions about his health seriously. "I have these microscopic cancer cells in my prostate, but [the doctors] are confident they'll be able to clean it out," he said.

The 83-year-old statesman was adamant his three doctors would not mislead the public. "Doctors don't say your health is excellent if in fact it is not, because that would destroy their credibility," he said.

On reports that his cancer was more serious than was being disclosed, Mr Mandela said: "I don't know what they mean". Twelve days into his radiotherapy, he said he was not feeling any side-effects.

But Mr Mandela has been ordered to rest. "I have cut down my programme, because I'm having treatment for seven weeks, five days a week, so I have to be very careful. There's a recommendation that in the afternoon I must rest, I must sleep. That may be the reason why I do not have side-effects."

Asked about progress on the writing of his memoirs, Mr Mandela acknowledged there had been "a little disruption as a result of the treatment".

He said he drew courage from other people who had fought cancer and won. "One of the advantages of prison is that you can read. I was able to read about some very brave people who handled cancer," he said, citing the example of an American woman who had cancer of the womb and had been warned by doctors that having children would hasten her death. "She was determined to have a child and ignored the instructions of the doctors. By the time I read the story, she had two children."

Then there was the example of the retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whom Mr Mandela quoted as saying "there is life after cancer".