The Big Lewbowski actor Jeff Bridges has opened up about his scary battle with COVID-19 while undergoing cancer chemotherapy.
In an interview with People, the now-healthy 72-year-old said the past year and a half felt like “a bizarre dream” that he wasn’t sure he could get over.
It all started when Bridges was doing a home workout and felt something unusual in his stomach. He would be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“I had a 12 x 9 inch tumor in my body. Like a child in my body It didn’t hurt or anything,” he said, shocked by the doctor’s discovery.
He started chemo via IV, then oral, right away, and the doctors’ “cocktail” that was used “worked quickly.”
But by January 2021, chemotherapy had weakened his immune system, and the “True Grit” star contracted COVID at a time when the vaccine wasn’t yet available.
“I had no defense. That’s what chemotherapy does – it robs you of your entire immune system. I had nothing to fight against it,” he said. “COVID made my cancer look like nothing.”
He spent the next five months in the hospital in excruciating pain, yelling for nurses to give him oxygen every time he turned.
“I was pretty close to death. The doctors kept telling me, ‘Jeff, you have to fight. You don’t fight.” I was in surrender mode. i was ready to go I danced with my mortality,” he said.
The Oscar winner first noticed improvements when his medical team gave him convalescent plasma, a therapy that uses blood from people who have recovered from an illness to help others heal. He also worked with a physical therapist three times a week.
“As the show started to take shape, I was like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna do something really cool here,'” Bridges said.
His health issues helped him see life and time with his wife, Susan, in a new way.
“Who would say, ‘I’d like to have some cancer and give myself a dose of COVID?’ But my ability to receive and give all the love just increased,” he says. “Everything was turned up in the most beautiful way.”
His new show, The Old Man, is set to premiere June 16 on FX.