Jeff Bridges had both – and said cancer is easier than COVID-19.
The ‘Old Man’ star, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2020, was undergoing chemotherapy when he contracted the coronavirus – and the 73-year-old is open about how one affected that impacted others.
“I received this letter from chemotherapy telling me I had COVID,” Bridges said told AARP The Magazine in an interview published on Tuesday. “I didn’t have an immune system to fight it anymore. The chemotherapy had erased that, which made it really, really difficult.”
“For me,” he continued, “cancer was nothing compared to COVID.”
Bridges had COVID while also struggling with a 9 x 12 inch tumor in his body. The actor told AARP he was contemplating his own death at the time and was convinced he’d never work again — until recovery took him from “we’ll see” to “maybe.”
Ultimately, it was his wife, Susan Gaston, who helped him get back on his feet.
“My wife Sue was my absolute advocate,” Bridges told the outlet of his 45-year-old partner. “She really fought to keep me off a ventilator. I didn’t want to be there, and neither did the doctors. But Sue was persistent.”
Hospitals resorted to ventilators to help COVID-19 patients breathe easier in the early days of the pandemic. Studies began to point to this mechanical ventilation could be resulting in a higher mortality ratehowever, possibly due to the risk of bacterial infection or pneumonia.
Bridges told AARP he shot “those fight scenes” in The Old Man without even knowing he had cancer – which has since shrunk “to the size of a marble.” Although he announced in September 2021 that he was in remission, the journey has been far from easy.
“To get better, you often had to set very small goals,” he told the outlet.
“First they asked, ‘How long can you hold out?’ “For a while my record was 45 seconds before I collapsed,” he continued. “And then they were like, ‘Oh look, you stand for a minute!’ That is so cool. Can you walk 5 feet now?’”
Bridges contracted COVID-19 a second time last year, but said “It wasn’t nearly as bad as the first time.” The actor, who was hospitalized during the production of The Old Man’s first season, will now begin filming the second – and couldn’t be happier.
“Doing what you’re doing revitalizes you and makes you feel great,” he told AARP. “And I’m so blessed to have this cast … you know, that’s helped my health, too, I think.”