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Dolph Lundgren says he was diagnosed with kidney cancer eight years ago, and that he was at one point told by a doctor he only had two to three years to live.
The Aquaman and Rocky IV star opened up for the first time about his diagnosis while appearing on In Depth With Graham Bensinger. He was first diagnosed in 2015 after doctors in L.A. found a cancerous tumor in his kidney. Lundgren says he’s opening up about it now to help raise awareness.
“If you can save one person’s life who was in my situation, then it’s worth it, for sure,” he said. “As an actor, you try to put positive emotion and positive energy into the world and I’ve always tried to be nice to everybody and meet all fans, anybody, and it maybe came back to me somehow.”
While discussing his years-long treatment, the actor said he started with “scans every six months” in 2015, before escalating to every year, and eventually, he was “fine for five years.” Then, while back in Sweden in 2020, he said he had acid reflux and went in for a check-up. “I did an MRI, and they found that there were a few more tumors around that area,” he explained.
The actor noted that he underwent surgery in which six tumors were removed, but found out that another had been found.
“There’s a picture that I was going to direct and star in that was starting in the fall. The doctor called me when I was in Alabama ready to shoot and said, ‘They found one more tumor in the liver,'” he recalled. “At that point, it started to hit me that this is kind of something serious. They did a scan to prepare for surgery. And the surgeon called me and said, ‘No, it’s grown now. It’s too big. We can’t take it out. It’s like the size of a small lemon.'”
He would then have to undergo more therapy that started to cause side effects like diarrhea, leading him to lose a lot of weight — something he and his fiancé “suffered through.” Those difficulties continued through a trip to London in fall 2021, where he went to film The Expendables 4 and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
“The problem was that the doctor over there (Cedars) wasn’t really sharing information with us. We didn’t really know didn’t know what was going on,” he recalled. “I didn’t hear from the people at Cedars for six months. They never called me or anything. I think now, thinking back, they probably thought, ‘Oh, I’m a lost case.'”
Lundgren said the tone of his health team began to change, with the doctor “saying things like, ‘You should probably take a break and spend more time with your family and so forth.'” That prompted him to ask how much time he had left, to which the doctor responded “two or three years,” though Lundgren said he “could tell in his voice that he probably thought it was less.”
“You kind of look at your life and going, ‘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,” the Creed II star said. “So it wasn’t like I was bitter about it. It was just like I feel sorry for my kids and my fiancé and the people around you because I’m still a fairly young guy and fairly active.”
That prognosis, however, would receive some pushback after the Hollywood performer sought a second opinion from a physician who treated his kidney cancer with an approach that targeted a mutation common in lung cancer. The actor reveals that if he had followed the advice of the first physician, “he would have had about three or four months left.” Lundgren said.
Instead, he saw a radical difference, and within three months, “things were shrinking by 20, 30 percent.” He added that he continued this form of treatment through 2022, his medications shrinking his tumors by about 90 percent. The whole experience is something that has made him “appreciate life more.”
“Now I’m in the process of taking out the remaining scar tissue of these tumors,” said the actor. “Hopefully when they take these out, there is no cancer activity, and the medication that I’m taking is going to suppress everything else.”
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