- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (AP) - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez cracked jokes and expressed optimism Wednesday in her first appearance since her thyroid cancer was announced .

Fernandez is scheduled to undergo surgery next Wednesday and then leave her vice president in charge for 20 days _ a personal challenge for a politician who has never been comfortable delegating. Doctors expect her to have a speedy recovery, since the cancer, papillary thyroid carcinoma, is highly curable without chemotherapy.

Nevertheless, the announcement Tuesday night was a shocker for Argentines who just gave Fernandez a landslide re-election victory, in part because they see her as the only one capable of controlling the country’s social pressures and keeping the economy stable.

She too acknowledged the precarious situation Argentina faces in a time of global financial crisis, urging her allies to collaborate with her and avoid taking actions that sabotage her government’s gains.

“One person alone can’t do it all, even working 24 hours a day,” she said. “The body can’t handle it.”

Fernandez, 58, sought overall to project an image of normalcy Wednesday, announcing new revenue transfers to provincial governments and then honoring new military officers. Several of the governors who gave her an extended standing ovation expressed relief to see her in good spirits and fully in command.

“She seems optimistic, making jokes. Clearly she’s not going to let anything slow her down these next four years,” Chaco Gov. Jorge Capitanich said.

Gov. Jose Luis Gioja of San Juan praised her appeal for collaboration and responsibility, which he said are key to keeping Argentina on track in the face of global economic pressures.

Fernandez joked about what might have happened if she had been diagnosed with cancer during her previous term, when her former vice president, Julio Cobos, turned renegade. She praised her current constitutional successor, former Economy Minister Amado Boudou, for sharing her political ideas.

She made it clear that she’ll be keeping close watch on things while recovering next month, but said “the truth is that I _ everything is too much. You can’t be in charge of everything.”

But practically in the same breath, she added: “We’re going to keep going with the same energy we’ve always had. We need to face things as we’ve always done, taking charge of everything that’s our responsibility, and everything else as well.”

“I’m going to keep working the same as always, for Argentina, for nothing other than her, and for all the Argentines,” she said.

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