Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez acknowledged Tuesday that he thought about abandoning public life after discovering he had cancer in June 2011, for which he had to be operated three times.

"At a certain moment I began to think that, yes, that I'd have to leave the political arena, but thank God here I am all recovered," Chavez, 58, said in an interview on Caracas radio station Fiesta 106.5.

The leftist head of state, who took office in 1999, said that he feels well and takes good care of himself, exercising, studying a lot and carrying out his duties as president.

"I feel in very good spirits, optimistic, believing in what we're doing, in what we will do in life and, well, my life is in the hands of God and the people, now more than ever," Chavez, who is seeking another six-year term in the Oct. 7 election, said.

The president acknowledged that with the illness he grew even closer to religion, and said that he always felt very Catholic and Christian and even came to be an altar boy.

"I liked it, I liked it, but what I most liked was running free in the streets," he said.

Chavez said that the experience with cancer reaffirmed his religious beliefs.

"Since then I have clung more to Christ, to the blood of Christ and have commended my life to Christ and here I am battling away," he said.

Chavez had the tumor removed in Cuba in June 2011 and then underwent months of chemotherapy. A recurrence of the cancer necessitated another operation in February, also in Havana.

The latest surgery was followed by several rounds of radiation and in July the Venezuelan president was declared cancer-free for the second time.

Chavez leads opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in the latest opinion polls ahead of next month's presidential ballot.

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