Leaning on Family During the Cancer Journey
- Actor Jeff Bridges, 72, says it was his wife of 45 years who gave him the strength to keep fighting as he went through cancer and very serious Covid-19.
- Months after a near-deadly Covid battle, Bridges was able to get back on his feet (with the help of a trainer) to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding.
- Bridges was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma back in 2020.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma begins in a type of white blood cell called the lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system.
In an interview earlier this year, Bridges told CBS that he credits his wife with giving him the strength he needed to get through the health issues, even gushing over the day the couple first met back in 1975. “I have a photograph of the first words that I ever said to my wife, and first words she said to me: ‘Will you go out with me?’ ‘No.’ And click, the guy took the picture,” Bridges said of their chance meeting. “You know, and wow, it’s my prized possession.”Read More
“Finally, one day I said, ‘Maybe I can do it, you know,’” he told the outlet. “And it turns out, I not only got to walk her down the aisle, but I got to do the wedding dance. That was terrific.”
Bridges’ bout with blood cancer
Shortly after production on The Old Man was halted in March 2020 due to Covid-19, Bridges was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system. He began chemotherapy treatment and it was working well.
However, in January 2021, both he and his wife were diagnosed with Covid-19. While his wife ended up in the hospital for five days, the cancer treatment had weakened Bridges’ immune system so much that he ended up staying in the hospital for over a month.
Now in remission, like so many cancer survivors, the struggle left the actor with a renewed appreciation for life.
“I’ll be honest. I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” he told Esquire. “I was on death’s door there for a while in the hospital … When I finally went back to work, after a two-year hiatus, it was the most bizarre kind of thing. It felt like a dream.”
What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
The cancer Bridges was diagnosed with, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, begins in a type of white blood cell called the lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system. There are a few different subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After someone is diagnosed, their doctor will need to determine if it is indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive, and if the lymphocytes being affected are B-cells or T-cells. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is the most common subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Treatment depends on what subtype a person has.
“For patients with indolent lymphomas, sometimes patients may not require therapy at the time of diagnosis, if they’re asymptomatic or have a low burden of disease, whereas patients with more aggressive lymphoma would require initiation of treatment,” Dr. Jennifer Crombie, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation.
When a patient has an aggressive type of lymphoma, “We do treat patients with chemotherapy,” Dr Crombie said. “That’s the standard of care — and our most common regimen that we use for patients is something called R-CHOP.”
Treatment options for non-Hodgkin lymphoma
The best treatment choice for someone with non-Hodgkin lymphoma depends largely on the type of lymphoma they have and the stage of the disease. One of the most effective regimens available for aggressive B-cell lymphoma is a drug combination called R-CHOP.
“R-CHOP has been a standard treatment regimen for aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphomas of the B-cell subtype for many years,” Dr. Adrienne Phillips, medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, told SurvivorNet. “There are clinical trials looking to improve upon that standard by adding or removing medications to improve outcomes or minimize toxicity, but R-CHOP is still the standard of care for aggressive B-cell lymphomas.”
Here’s how the acronym breaks down:
- R: Rituximab (Rituxan) is a monoclonal antibody that attaches to a specific protein called CD20, which sits on the surface of B cells. It targets the cancerous cells and destroys them.
- C: Cyclophosphamide is a type of chemotherapy drug
- H: Doxorubicin hydrochloride (hydroxydaunomycin) is a type of chemotherapy drug
- O: Vincristine sulfate (Oncovin) is a type of chemotherapy drug
- P: Prednisone is a steroid, which lowers inflammation
In most cases, doctors deliver this regimen in cycles spaced three weeks apart to help minimize side effects and give patients time between treatment cycles. The number of cycles can range from 3 to 6, depending on the stage of the cancer.
If this treatment combination does not work, doctors may try a new approach, like a different kind of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.