“The Big Lewbowski” actor Jeff Bridges is opening up about his scary battle with COVID-19 while receiving chemo for cancer.
In an interview with People, the now-healthy 72-year-old said the last year and a half feels like “a bizarre dream” that he wasn’t sure he’d overcome.
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-by-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 by infusion, then orally, right away, and the “cocktail” of medicine doctors used “worked fast.”
But in January 2021, the chemo had weakened his immune system and the “True Grit” star got COVID at a time when the vaccine was not yet available.
“I had no defenses. That’s what chemo does — it strips you of all your immune system. I had nothing to fight it,” he said. “COVID made my cancer look like nothing.”
He would spend the next five months in extreme pain in the hospital, yelling for nurses to help him with oxygen every time he rolled over.
“I was pretty close to dying. The doctors kept telling me, ‘Jeff, you’ve got to fight. You’re not fighting.’ I was in surrender mode. I was ready to go. I was dancing with my mortality,” he said.
The Oscar winner began seeing improvements when his medical team gave him a convalescent plasma, a therapy that uses blood from people who’ve recovered from an illness to help others heal. He also worked with a physical therapist three times a week.
“As the show started getting into shape, I said, ‘Oh, we are coming up with something really cool here,’” Bridges said.
His health scares helped him see life, and spending time with his wife, Susan, in a new way.
“Who would say, ‘I’d love some cancer and give me a dose of COVID?’ But my ability to receive all the love and give it was just heightened,” he says. “Everything was turned up in the most beautiful way.”
His new show, “The Old Man,” is set to premiere on FX on June 16.