White House Press Secretary Tony Snow has suffered a recurrence of the colon cancer that he battled more than two years ago. Snow, who has been President Bush's spokesman for nearly a year, had surgery Monday to remove a small growth on his abdomen. During the procedure, doctors found the cancer, which has spread to Snow's liver.
The news has hit hard at the White House, where in a short time Snow has become not just the administration's public face, but one of its most important players.
On Friday Tony Snow made an unexpected announcement that he would be undergoing surgery, saying he was doing it out of a sense of aggressive caution.
It has been more than two years since the 51-year-old White House spokesman was treated for colon cancer, the same disease that took his mother's life when he was still in high school. Snow had been cancer-free for more than two years. But Tuesday's surgery revealed what every cancer survivor fears.
Snow himself broke the news to President Bush in a morning phone call.
The news came as a shock to White House staff. Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino broke down in tears when she first revealed Snow's illness to reporters.
Later in the day, she said she couldn't answer questions about his treatment or prognosis. But she said that Snow was on top of the news, and that he had suggested some talking points on the Iraq war funding bill.
Perino was also asked whether Snow would return to work.
"I do know that Tony Snow loves this job," Perino said. "He says that it's the best job he's ever had in his life. He, in fact, has called it 'Communications Disneyland.'"
While Snow is often combative in his work, he is also extremely comfortable at the podium and quick with a laugh.
It's hard to overstate the value of such a persona to the White House — and to a second-term president beset by troubles at home and abroad.
Snow now faces a round of intense therapy; his return is uncertain.