Dolph Lundgren's Battle With Kidney Cancer
- “Rocky” actor Dolph Lundgren was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, went into remission, and had the cancer recur five years later. Now, the 65-year-old Hollywood legend and martial artist is living a “normal life” amid cancer treatment.
- Lundgren admitted in a recent interview that he’s continuing to take “oral medication” in his cancer fight, but he’s feeling great and continuing to do the things he loves.
- The actor recently married his second wife and reprised his role as the “enemy” in sandwich chain Zaxby’s new Fried Chicken Philly commercial. He’s also working on a documentary about himself, which her suspects will come out next year.
- Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Oncology, also advocates for cancer warriors to prioritize their mental health. She noted that emotional well-being has been studied as a factor in patient outcomes. “We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” she told SurvivorNet in an earlier interview.
Lundgren, who recently married his second wife and reprised his role as the “enemy” in sandwich chain Zaxby’s new Fried Chicken Philly commercial, is evidently still doing the things he loves and taking part in new projects despite his kidney cancer diagnosis.
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“I mean, there’s no side effects. Every day to me is a blessing, and I really enjoy it, and I feel really good about that.”
Lundgren, who married his new wife in Greece on July 13, has come a long way since one doctor reportedly told him he only had a few years left to live.
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He told ET, “We actually got engaged the week that I found out the cancer was back. That was before COVID. So then we went through COVID. And then wanting to see how these treatments worked. But everything seemed fine.
“So this summer, in Mykonos in Greece, we finally got married and that was really just a small wedding. A few friends. It was really nice.”
Earlier this year, in an interview with “In Depth with Graham Bensinger,” Lundgren described his then-fiance as “like an angel that was sent down to help me.”
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Commenting on their age gap, he said, “I feel like Emma is very mature for her age, for sure. She’s had an interesting life. She came over here from a small town in Norway. She was married here and she went through a difficult divorce and went through a lot of stuff that most young people her age don’t have to deal with.”
“So she’s quite mature and at the same time, I think I’m quite youthful. But you know, I’ve been with people that are twice her age [who are] less mature than she is,” he added.
Speaking to ET, Lundgren also noted how his fans will be able to getting a deeper looking into his life, thanks to a new documentary about himself, in which he’s executive producing.
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He explained further, “I have a documentary they’ve been shooting about my life for two years. They’ve been filming it and we’re in there editing right now. I’m going to see it in a few weeks and I think that it will come out next year, so that’s pretty exciting.”
Dolph Lundgren’s Secret 8-Year-Battle With Cancer
Earlier this year, during his interview on “In Depth With Graham Bensinger,” Lundgren admitted he was feeling “lucky to be alive” after being diagnosed with cancer in 2015, going into remission, and having the cancer return five years later only to learn it was mutating.
During the interview, shared on YouTube about five months ago, Lundgren took viewers through his emotional cancer journey.
Speaking in a one-on-one interview with Bensinger, Lundgren said a tumor in his kidney was found and taken out in 2015 in L.A., and a biopsy confirmed it was in fact cancerous.
He explained, “Then I did scans every six months, then you do it every year and it was fine, you know, for five years. In 2020, I was back in Sweden and had some kind of acid reflux … I didn’t know what it was. So I did an MRI and they found there were a few more tumors around the area.
“The doctor called me … and said they found one more tumor in the liver. So I was like ‘Oh okay.’ At that point, it started to hit me that this is kind of something serious.”
He ultimately had surgery to remove six tumors.
During the interview, a video clip was played show the father of two recovering from the procedure.
“It’s the day after my surgery, they took out one tumor, then they took out another two they found, and another three small ones. So six all together,” he says. “Hopefully it’s cleaned out. If it dies, it dies,” he added, saying a similar phrase to his famous line in “Rocky IV”: “I can not be defeated. I beat all man. Someday, I will beat a real champion. If he dies, he dies.”
However, scans showed that the tumor in his liver had grown “too big” and was “like the size of a lemon” and was unable to be removed via surgery.
Lundgren then had to start systemic therapy in the fall of 2021, which at the time, he was estimated to live for only another two or three years, something he worried was actually a shorter amount of time.
Recounting how he felt, Lundgren said, “You kind of look at your life going ‘Oh I’ve had a great life. I’ve had a freaking great life. I’ve lived like five lifetimes in one already with everything I’ve done. So It wasn’t like I was bitter about it. It was just like, you know, feel sorry for my kids and my fiance and people around you.
Thankfully, Lundgren didn’t give up and was determined to do what he could to fight off the cancer.
After he obtained a second opinion from oncologist Dr. Alexandra Drakaki, who performed another biopsy, his kidney cancer was found to be mutating like lung cancer. It, therefore, needed different treatment than what had been suggested to him.
“If I’d gone on the other treatment, I had about three or four months left,” he explained. “I couldn’t believe that that it would be that radical of a difference, that within three months, things were shrinking by 20, 30%.”
The treatment that followed with medication led his tumors to decrease in size by 90%, which his doctor described as his improvement being “above expectations.”
Learning About Kidney Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, 81,800 people across the U.S. are expected to have kidney cancer, a disease which can develop in both adults and children, this year.
“The main types of kidney cancer are renal cell cancer, transitional cell cancer, and Wilms tumor,” the institute explains, noting that some “inherited conditions” may increase a person’s risk of getting the disease.
Luckily, advancement in kidney cancer treatment has proven effective for people battling the disease.
The institute states, “NCI-funded researchers are working to advance our understanding of how to detect and treat kidney cancer. Much progress has been made over the last few decades, especially in identifying genes that can drive the development of kidney cancer.
“This knowledge has led to more effective treatments. Today, about 75% of people with kidney cancer will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.”
Finding Joy Outside of Cancer
When faced with a cancer battle it can be hard to focus on life outside of your disease. But it’s important to remember that your mental state can actually impact your success as a patient.
“I’m pretty good at telling what kind of patients are going to still have this attitude and probably going to live the longest, even with bad, bad disease,” Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet. “And those are patients who, they have gratitude in life.”
Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Oncology, also advocates for cancer warriors to prioritize their mental health. She noted that emotional well-being has been studied as a factor in patient outcomes.
“We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” Dr. Chase told SurvivorNet in an earlier interview.
“So, working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment [and] your emotional well-being are important and can impact your survival,” Dr. Chase explained.
“If that’s related to what activities you do that bring you joy, then you should try to do more of those activities.”
She recommends writing down ten things that make you happy and intentionally making the time to do those activities throughout the day.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff