President Reagan gave a solid vote of confidence to his doctors and delivered an optimistic view of his health in an interview published yesterday, declaring, "I am someone who does not have cancer."
Reagan also said he will not allow his bout with colon cancer to intrude on the remainder of his second term, saying, "I've never been that way about things of that kind."
In a Time magazine interview, the 74-year-old president discussed his condition at length for the first time since cancer surgery July 13.
He attributed his quick bounce back from the operation and from a March 1981 assassination attempt to "a very real and deep faith" instilled by his mother.
Throughout the interview, conducted Thursday in the Oval Office by Time columnist Hugh Sidey, Reagan spoke optimistically about his prognosis. His doctors say he has a better than 50-50 chance of being free from cancer for the next five years.
Saying he was "embarrassed talking boldly about all these plumbing secrets," Reagan expressed confidence that, with the removal of the growth and two feet of his lower intestine, he can lead a normal, healthy life.
"It's gone, along with the surrounding tissue. It had not spread. No evidence of anything else," he said. "So I am someone who does not have cancer."
However, Reagan acknowledged he faces a greater than average risk of the disease and, therefore, will undergo regular examinations and tests "to see if it's going to return, or if there was a malignant cell that had escaped into the bloodstream or something."
Seeking to quell second-guessing by outside medical experts and reporters, Reagan said he never suspected cancer before the growth was discovered during what was to have been the routine removal of a benign polyp -- his second such operation in 14 months -- from his colon.
Because those polyps were not of a type considered to be precancerous, Reagan said there was no reason for his doctors to conduct a full examination of the lower intestine, which would have detected the larger, cancerous growth.
"And there was talk of concern about blood in his stool . That was all dismissed because I took the further tests and examinations on that and there was never another trace."
The president displayed some annoyance with news reports suggesting that his chief of staff, Donald T. Regan, had taken on too much power as the czar of the West Wing in his absence. He also denied that Vice President Bush "was shipped away or something" by Regan the weekend of the cancer surgery. Reagan said it was his decision that Bush stick with plans to spend that weekend at his home in Maine.
Reagan said he will press ahead with his fights for deficit reduction and tax revision as he recovers, adding that he is "looking forward" to a November summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The president repeated praise for his wife, Nancy, and told the magazine that she left a doll dressed in nurse's clothes in his room whenever she had to leave for an official function.
"She has named it Nancy and has put it there while she's gone to remind me that I'm to do all those things like rest and so forth," Reagan said.