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Live Life Deliberately

Former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi in treatment for leukemia

Silvio Berlusconi, 86, who thrice served as prime minister of Italy, was admitted to the intensive care unit of San Raffaele hospital in Milan on Wednesday because of a lung infection and has been in treatment for chronic leukemia, a blood cancer, “for some time,” his doctors said in a statement Thursday.

The chronic myelomonocytic leukemia is in a “persistent chronic phase” and is not acute, his doctors Alberto Zangrillo and Fabio Ciceri wrote. Treatment will involve curing the pulmonary infection, as well as minimizing the effects of the blood cancer.

The influential leader has seen bouts of health conditions and illness, including prostate cancer, heart surgery and routine hospital admissions since being infected with the coronavirus in 2020.

Paolo Barelli, head of Forza Italia in the lower house of Parliament, said on local television that he received a phone call from Berlusconi after his admission to the hospital. Berlusconi, who still leads the party, was still “concerned with parliamentary works,” Barelli said.

“The mere fact that he was focusing on the minute details of lower house work shows that it’s a fully capable person, and preserves his typical trait of precisely inquiring about what he wants to know,” Barelli said when asked how the former leader sounded on the call.

Before dominating Italian politics, Berlusconi became a billionaire media tycoon, helming an empire of television channels, magazines and a daily newspaper. He founded the center-right Forza Italia political party in 1994, the same year it was part of a coalition that swept the election and helped Berlusconi surge into power for the first time.

Over his long political career, he polarized the nation with personal scandals including corruption allegations, a tax fraud conviction and what became known as his “bunga bunga” parties — gatherings at his villa involving allegations of paid sex and many young women. He was known for his brash personality and over-the-top aggrandizement, once calling himself “the best political leader in Europe and in the world” and the “Jesus Christ of politics.”

It was a national debt crisis in 2011 that got the influential leader to resign. He is still a sitting senator.

“Forza Silvio,” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni tweeted Wednesday, sending the former leader a “sincere and affectionate wish for a speedy recovery.”


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