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TORONTO (AP) — Just hours before he begins aggressive chemotherapy for a rare and difficult-to-beat cancer, a rough-sounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford released an audio statement from his hospital room on Thursday urging people to vote for his brother for mayor.
Ford said he soon would start chemotherapy to treat the cancer that forced him to do what months of scandals over drug and alcohol abuse could not — drop his bid for re-election.
His doctor announced Wednesday that Ford has a malignant liposarcoma.
Ford, who has been hospitalized for more than a week with a tumor in his abdomen, announced Friday that he was pulling out of the Oct. 27 race and his brother Doug, a city councilor, would run in his place.
Ford vowed to beat cancer and said "Toronto needs Doug Ford as mayor"
"I'm encouraging my brother to jump into this race, wholeheartedly, right now," said Ford, his voice sounding hoarse in the three-minute statement. "You, the people of Toronto, have been with me since Day One. Now I ask you to throw your support behind Doug."
Ford thanked the public for the support and said he would return strong for his family and his city.
"With the love and support of my family, my friends, and the people of Toronto — I will beat this," he said.
Rob Ford, who was elected mayor in 2010, is still running for his old city council seat representing a district in his home suburb of Etobicoke, where he gained a faithful following for his brash everyman style and conservative fiscal policies.
Doug Ford, who has been his brother's most aggressive defender, is expected to face an uphill battle against two other major candidates in the mayoral election. He hasn't started campaigning since he announced he was entering the race but said outside the hospital on Thursday that his campaign will start Friday.
"What makes Rob feel better is me out there campaigning. I'm going to go to his hospital room right now and he's going to give me heck for going in there and not going door knocking," Doug Ford said. "I just want to make sure Rob gets through his treatment today and we're ready to go."
Ford, 45, has been engulfed in controversy since the Toronto Star and the U.S. website Gawker last year reported the existence of a video apparently showing the mayor inhaling from a crack pipe. After months of denials, he finally admitted to using crack but adamantly refused to resign, even after Toronto's City Council stripped him of most of his powers. A stream of revelations of erratic behavior, public drunkenness — and a report of another crack video — finally prompted him to enter rehab earlier this year. He returned to work and campaigning in June.
Ford's doctor, Dr. Zane Cohen, said the cancer is spreading and that they have found "a small nodule in the buttock" near the left hip. He said his cancer makes up only about one percent of all cancers but said he was optimistic about Ford's treatment because they have many experts in sarcoma at the hospital. Ford will get two cycles of chemotherapy over the next 40 days in an effort to shrink the tumor, and then they'll assess. Surgery may or may not be necessary.
The tumor is about 12 centimeters (5 inches) by 12 centimeters (5 inches) and is about two or three years old. It hasn't spread to organs, Cohen said.
Liposarcoma is a type of soft tissue cancer that begins in fat cells, or fatty tissue, and occurs most often in older adults.
Ford's father, Doug Ford Sr., died in 2006 at of colon cancer at the age of 73 three months after he was diagnosed with the disease.
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