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Jeff Bridges contracted COVID while in chemo for cancer: "I was pretty close to dying"

Jeff Bridges contracted COVID while in chemo for cancer: "I was pretty close to dying"

"I had no defenses. That's what chemo does — it strips you of all your immune system. I had nothing to fight it. COVID made my cancer look like nothing," Bridges shared. 

Jeff Bridges has many celebrations lined up: his new grandson, a puppy, a show, and his upcoming 45th wedding anniversary to his wife Susan on June 5. But after his recent brush with death, the Oscar winner is grateful just to be alive.

In 2020, Bridges was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and almost died after contracting COVID-19. The 72-year-old has now recovered from both and describes the grueling year and a half crisis as "a bizarre dream."

Speaking to PEOPLE, The Big Lebowski star recalled how he felt something unusual in his stomach while exercising one morning at his home. After visiting the doctor, he was shocked to be diagnosed with cancer. "I had a 12-by-9-in. tumor in my body. Like a child in my body. It didn't hurt or anything," he shared.



 

The actor began chemotherapy by infusion soon after and even underwent oral chemo. Things seemed to look up as the tumor began shrinking. "They got a cocktail that worked, and oh man it worked fast. That thing just imploded," recalled Bridges. Just as the artist thought he was out of the woods, his health took a turn for the worst after contracting COVID in January 2021. 

At that point, vaccines weren't available and the chemotherapy had weakened his immune system considerably, So when the virus hit, it hit him hard. "I had no defenses. That's what chemo does — it strips you of all your immune system. I had nothing to fight it. COVID made my cancer look like nothing," he shared. 

For nearly five months, Bridges had to remain hospitalized. He experienced such extreme pain that he couldn't even roll over in bed without the assistance of the nurse who would helo him with oxygen. "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. 



 

Bridges' condition started improving after the medical team gave him convalescent plasma (a therapy that uses blood from people who have recovered from an illness to help others recover.) "I started taking baby steps," he said, adding how he would work with a physical therapist thrice a week. 

Now in remission, Bridges is excited to get back to work and invest time in his upcoming drama The Old Man. "As the show started getting into shape, I said, 'Oh, we are coming up with something really cool here,'" said Bridges, whose biggest joy is his family.

He loves spending time with his wife, three daughters, and grandkids. "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. Everything was turned up in the most beautiful way," he noted. 

Cover image source: Getty | Photo by Kevin Winter

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