Jeff Bridges' Cancer Battle & Efforts to Give Back
- “The Big Lebowski” star and non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor Jeff Bridges, has signed a letter in support of ending the dog and cat meat trades, with the help of other celebrities and the Humane Society International (HSI) and Animal Friends Manado Indonesia (AFMI).
- Bridges signed a compelling joint letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, dated Novemeber 24, 2023, following a triumphant rescue operation, which led to Indonesia’s Tomohon Extreme Market’s permanent closure.
- It’s great to see Bridges in support of saving the lives of companion animals as finding joy in family pets as a means to cope with grief, or even to cope with your cancer battle, is a fairly common practice.
- Experts suggest that therapy dogs can be beneficial for people grieving and people going through treatment.
- Bridges announced in October 2020 that he was diagnosed with lymphoma, and about a year later in September 2021, he was declared to be in remission. He had chemotherapy to treat his disease. Other lymphoma treatments include active surveillance, radiation, and bone marrow transplant.
It’s heartwarming to see Bridges joining in support of animals in need alongside 36 other celebrities, including singer Billie Eilish, film director Clint Eastwood, actress Zooey Deschanel, and comedian Ricky Gervais.Read More
The letter reads, “We are writing to extend our congratulations to those leaders throughout Indonesia who have taken action to eradicate the dog and cat meat trades in their jurisdictions, saving tens of thousands of dogs and cats every month from the cruel and dangerous trades.View this post on Instagram
“There are now 28 cities and regencies that have passed Directives and regulations prohibiting the trades, as well as the Special Capital Region of Jakarta, and the groundbreaking and progressive action taken by the City of Tomohon in July ending the sale and slaughter of dogs and cats, and their meat, at the nation’s most infamous market—Tomohon Extreme Market.”
The letter praised the “widespread national and global condemnation” of live markets and the dog and cat meat trades, adding, “We applaud actions taken to protect companian animal welfare and safeguard public health and safety. We hope other cities, regencies and provinces across Indonesia will now follow the strong leadership and direct action shown by others, to have even greater impact for people and animals.”
It concludes, “We now urge the central government of Indonesia to ensure that all regulations and laws to end the cruel and dangerous dog and cat meat trades are fully enforced, and that a nationwide ban is introduced so that we can soon celebrate a truly dog and cat meat-free Indonesia.”
On July 21, 2023, the Tomohon Extreme Market became dog and cat meat-free, become the first of these types of markets in Indonesia to make the change.
HSI Global shared the news and thanked anyone in support immediately after the trade was banned at that market.
The organization wrote in an Instagram post, “Because of your generous, enthusiastic support, not only is the dog and cat meat trade BANNED at ‘Tomohon Extreme Market,’ the surviving dogs and cats have been rescued. Once destined for someone’s dinner, these sweet animals have bright futures ahead of them. They are learning what love is, getting food and medical care, and will eventually be adopted into loving homes.
“Special thanks to Animal Friends Manado Indonesia (AFMI), who is caring for the animals and was instrumental in this historic win. We could NOT do this without you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Please join us in celebrating this incredible victory as we keep fighting to end the dog and cat meat trade EVERYWHERE.”
Bridges has claimed to have been a dog owner most of his life, so it’s no wonder he joined in support of putting an end to cat and dog meat trades.
A few years back, Bridges shared a heartwarming photo of him resting with his new Cavapoo puppy Monty, captioning the post, “Here’s the latest: Feeling good. Shaved my head. Got a puppy – Monty. Had a Birthday – 71.”
“Unconditional Love,” one of his fans commented, followed by another who wrote, “Dogs are a gift from GOD…that’s why they are spelled backwards!”
View this post on Instagram
Bridges’ love for dogs is also seen as he worked with some adorable canines in the FX thriller, “The Old Man.”
He said in an interview about working with the dogs, “And not only is it terrific working with dogs, but you’ve got to give the credit to Sarah Clifford, who is the dog trainer. The actors, myself in this case, needs more training than the dogs as far as what’s needed in the scene. But we work together and we have a good time.
“I mean, these dogs are so, so sweet.”
Later on in the video interview, Bridges tells the camera, “I love dogs, and my wife, she’s visiting me here at the set today. Not to see me, but to see the dogs, man. The rottweilers.”
Jeff Bridges’ Cancer Battle
Jeff Bridges was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2020 and started chemotherapy treatment right away. Although Bridges hasn’t personally specified which type of lymphoma he was diagnosed with, AARP previously noted that his cancer was, in fact, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system.
While cancer treatment was going well, he was also diagnosed with COVID-19 in January 2021, and due to his cancer treatment having weakened his immune system, Bridges wound up spending months in the hospital.
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According to AARP, Bridges’ cancer went into remission quickly after he was put through chemotherapy infusion, which was followed by an oral chemo protocol.
He dubbed his wife as being his “absolute champion” as she stayed by Bridges’ side as he recovered from covid in the hospital. “She really fought to keep me off a ventilator. I didn’t want to be on it, and the doctors didn’t necessarily want that. But Sue was adamant,” he told the news outlet.
He was ultimately treated with a blood plasma called “convalescent plasma,” which consists of viral antibodies.
Despite his struggle, like so many cancer survivors, Bridges was left with a renewed appreciation for life.
“I’ll be honest. I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” he told Esquire in an earlier interview. “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.”
“I came back after all that time, and saw the same faces [while shooting ‘The Old Man’], the same cast and crew,” he added. “It was like we had a long weekend. I gathered everyone and I said, ‘I had the most bizarre dream, you guys.’ I was sick and out, but all that feels like a gray mush now.”
Jeff Bridge’s battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma, one of the two most common types of lymphoma.
Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system that affects infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes. And there are more than 40 different types of lymphoma.
“Lymphoma is split up into a number of different categories,” Dr. Elise Chong, a medical oncologist at Penn Medicine, previously told SurvivorNet.
“The first distinguishing breakpoint, if you will, is non-Hodgkin lymphoma versus Hodgkin lymphoma,” she added, “and those sound like two different categories. But non-Hodgkin lymphoma comprises the majority of lymphoma, and Hodgkin lymphoma is a single specific type of lymphoma.”
Hodgkin lymphoma has distinctive, giant cells called Reed-Sternberg cells. The presence of these cells, which can be seen under a microscope, will help your doctor determine which of the two lymphoma types you have.
There are a few other important differences between non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma to note. For one thing, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is much more common. And you’re more likely to be diagnosed with it after age 55, like Jeff Bridges. People usually develop Hodgkin lymphoma at a younger age.
It should be noted that another difference between these two types of lymphoma is that non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more likely to spread in a random fashion and be found in different groups of lymph nodes in the body, while Hodgkin lymphoma is more likely to grow in a uniform way from one group of lymph nodes directly to another.
These two different types of lymphoma behave, spread and respond to treatment differently, so it’s important for you to know which type you have.
How Pets Can Help People Amid Health Challenges
SurvivorNet gathered some resources on pet therapy, and how it can be beneficial for people grieving, people going through treatment, and the pets themselves!
Richard Marks, who has bone marrow cancer and was getting chemotherapy at Mount Sinai five days a week at the time, said spending time with some dogs can really relieve your mind of struggles.
“When I’m doing chemotherapy, I’m waiting and times going by. Maybe I’m worrying about my numbers or how treatment is going. And all of the sudden a cute little dog goes by, then I’m not thinking about those things,” Marks told SurvivorNet. “I’m only thinking about that dog.”
Marks underwent pet therapy with the help of The Good Dog Foundation, an organization that promotes recovery from trauma and stress using animal-assisted therapy services.
In Marks’ case, he spent his chemotherapy days with a rescue dog named Bowie. Sarah Conroy, Bowie’s owner, became certified to visit hospitals with her pooch through the Good Dog Foundations. She told SurvivorNet that Bowie loves visiting his friends in the hospital, but for him, “It’s more about getting pet messages.”
Meanwhile, Alison Snow, who worked with cancer support services at Mount Sinai, told SurvivorNet that there is research to show that animal visits to hospitals can be extremely beneficial to people battling cancer, as well as other ailments.
“You can hear the excitement in the air when the dog is around and there is research to show that having animal-assisted visits is helpful to patients going through cancer in terms of lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, decreasing depression, and overall, helping patients feel less isolated,” Snow said.
Dogs Through Cancer
Cancer therapy dogs are trained to help people with cancer feel better emotionally and physically. A cancer therapy dog helps a person going through cancer treatment by reducing anxiety and lifting a person’s mood. These types of dogs mainly provide comfort and support through cancer.
Studies have shown that spending time with dogs lowers a person’s blood pressure and the stress hormone, cortisol. Therapy dogs may help with pain management, too, as time with dogs can trigger a release of endorphins which mitigate pain and discomfort.
Anecdotal evidence from SurvivorNet’s experts says that having a positive mood through cancer can benefit treatment. Also, scientific evidence around depression and cancer shows that treating depression positively impacts cancer treatment. This is where help from cancer therapy dogs can play a tremendous role. However, for more severe cases of anxiety and depression, speak to a psychologist before pursuing treatment or support from a furry friend.
Jane Kopelman, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of All About Dogs, said during a previous interview that the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Caring Canine Program was hoping to get more pups involved in the program because patients request them so often.
“What most patients say, and studies have proven, is that the dogs reduce anxiety, reduce depression, and they give people a sense of hope, they often motivate people,” Kopelman said. “Patients have said that they were so eager to have the dogs come that it motivated them to get up.”
The dogs can visit patients who are in the hospital after undergoing surgery and also visit outpatient locations where patients may be undergoing treatment like chemotherapy.
If you’re interested in pursuing a cancer therapy dog, speak with your doctor about the following steps, or an oncological social worker or organizations to connect with that train these types of dogs. Note that waiting lists for service dogs are often long and their training period is a lengthy process, as well, so time is of the essence if you wish to get a service dog.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff