Jeff Bridges got covid during his cancer treatment: ‘I was pretty close to dying’

In October 2020, we learned that Jeff Bridges was dealing with lymphoma. We didn’t know much, other than he was in treatment. Occasionally his family gave updates about how things were going well. For the most part, we stopped worrying about losing Jeff. Last September, Jeff disclosed that he’d contracted Covid from his cancer treatment center in January 2021. He waited until he was both in remission from his cancer, recovered from his Covid and vaccinated to update us. At the time, he used Jeffisms to describe his ordeal like “Covid kicked my ass pretty good” and that he’d felt he was “gettin’ close to the pearly gates.” Both were quickly followed up with positive vibes of how it’s “all in the rearview mirror” and how much better he’s doing. In Jeff’s latest People cover story, we find out just how close he got to those pearly gates. The tumor they found in Jeff at the time of his cancer diagnosis was 12”x9”. And while Jeff applauds the efficiency with which the chemotherapy “imploded” the tumor, it annihilated his immune system as well. He was hospitalized with Covid, unable to breathe. His doctor pleaded with him to fight. Jeff said he didn’t even understand the request because he was already in “surrender mode.”

Sticking together through sickness and in health is something Jeff Bridges and wife Susan have done throughout their marriage. But the happy couple, who celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary on June 5, recently faced their biggest health crisis yet when Jeff was diagnosed with cancer and then got COVID while in chemo.

In January of 2021, a month after he had begun chemo, Bridges got a notice informing him that he may have been exposed to COVID-19 at the treatment center. He soon tested positive (the vaccine wasn’t yet available) and the virus hit him hard since the chemo had weakened his immune system. “I had no defenses. That’s what chemo does — it strips you of all your immune system. I had nothing to fight it,” he says. “COVID made my cancer look like nothing.”

For Susan, seeing her husband in pain was heartbreaking. “We didn’t know if he would recover,” she says. She recalls getting a call from the hospital that they may have to put him on a ventilator. “I said, ‘Save his life. No matter what you have to do.’ ”

In the end, the medical team was able to keep Bridges off the ventilator, but the actor says, “I was pretty close to dying. The doctors kept telling me, ‘Jeff, you’ve got to fight. You’re not fighting.’ I was in surrender mode. I was ready to go. I was dancing with my mortality.”

[From People]

“COVID made my cancer look like nothing,” I wish every anti-masker, Covid denier, I’ll-risk-it twit would read that sentence. Jeff said he was unable to roll over in bed unassisted while he was battling Covid. The article points out that his wife Susan had asked his medical team to, “save his life. No matter what you have to do.” It must have been awful to find out that Jeff was in surrender mode at that time. But when you hear Jeff explain it, it makes sense. He couldn’t comprehend how he could fight what was happening because he had no power left. It sounds like he was just experiencing his own death in as conscious a way as he could. I’m quite undecided on where my own spirituality is right now but listening to Susan picking up the fight for Jeff’s life when Jeff couldn’t makes me wonder about our interconnectedness. Only a Jeff B post would I make me go this deep.

Because he’s Jeff Bridges, he found a way to frame these horrifying experiences in the most positive way possible. He likened it all to a dream, although not necessarily a bad one. He said getting that close to death’s door brings “you closer to you,” and that all of your philosophies and spiritualities are called upon to get through it. It’s a fascinating concept, that when stripped of any physical or metabolic strength, you find out what truly and fundamentally drives you. I’m in no rush to find out, mind you, but it’s something to contemplate.

The good news is Jeff is recovered, feeling great and his next project, The Old Man, comes out June 16th. It is decidedly less-Zen than Jeff’s interview:

Photo credit: People and Instagram

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14 Responses to “Jeff Bridges got covid during his cancer treatment: ‘I was pretty close to dying’”

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  1. Cupcake Riot says:

    I was diagnosed with several immunity issues and cancer at the beginning of the pandemic. I’m also a healthcare worker. I got covid pre-vaccine and this hits me so hard. I would lay in bed and struggle to breathe, literally counting the minutes until my next breathing treatment. The pandemic has stripped away my fundamental belief in people and it left me struggling to fill that void with something other than anger. I eventually found my footing but it has inextricably changed me. I understand so much of what he’s saying here. My heart to everyone who has struggled the last many years.

    • WiththeAmerican says:

      I feel this so much and am so sorry you experienced Covid on top of cancer. You are a hero for surviving.

      I got Covid early, before they knew what to do for it. I have been terrorized by Covid, the struggle to move, think, breathe, all by myself. I’ve lost all faith in there being care or help in the world. I will never forget being so sick I couldn’t ask for help, couldn’t think how to use my phone to text for help. Surrounded still by anti mask/vax losers.

      Just wanted to reach out because no one in my real life understands just how terrifying Covid is when you get it badly. Lying in bed struggling to breathe, trying not to panic, I’ll never forget it.

      • Cupcake Riot says:

        I know we’re lucky to be alive, but I’m so sorry for your experience. I live in the middle of a red state in a high transmission county, and I’m more shocked to see people wearing a mask than not, and I just think of not being able to even get to the bathroom on my own, because I was so weak. I wonder even now how they can really validate being willing to transmit that to people. It was almost 6 months before they could hear air circulation in the bottom of my lungs. I hope you’re doing better. I’m glad you’re alive, and fighting!

    • tealilly says:

      I’m so sorry that both of you went through that experience. This has been such a scary and sad period. I think a lot of us are changed. How could you not be after what you’ve been through.

  2. Mel says:

    A colleague and friend of mine got it as he was going through chemo and he died within a week. I lost my dad to cancer 6 months before Covid and in 2020 all I could think was that he would not have survived it and at least I got to hold his hand to the end. I never got the selfishness of people. We KNOW there are people who have no or very weak immune systems around us. A mild inconvenience of being masked is nothing compared to the absolute danger they are in. People shouldn’t have to go through losing a loved one to get that but empathy is definitely lost forevermore it seems.

    • Sam says:


      I’m sorry for your loss. My father had cancer and died of “pneumonia” in April 2020. He was in a red rural area and they wouldn’t test him for covid (I do not think they had the testing capabilities). By the time I drove 500 miles to him he was put on a ventilator and they would not allow any visitors. He was without family for 7 days on a ventilator before we had to turn it off. My brother and Ii could only communicate to him via phone and nurses. To not be there during that time to hold his hand will always be devastating. It must be so terrifying and frustrating for all the immune compromised dealing with covid. My heart is with them.

  3. C-Shell says:

    Thank GOD the strength came from somewhere to survive that lethal double whammy. Finding out how close he came to losing the fight … I can’t right now. It’s too much.

  4. smcollins says:

    As heartbreaking and painful as the initial story is the outcome is uplifting and inspiring. I’m a huge JB fan and actively avoided following his cancer treatment/updates because I was so afraid of reading the worst. He’s that rare celebrity (and I use that term loosely because he’s so much more than that) who’s passing would just crush me and make me sob (Harrison Ford is another one that springs to mind). I’m so happy to read this is all behind him, he’s in remission and doing well. I’m so excited for his new film and can’t wait to see it!

  5. EM says:

    This past Fall I was told I likely had Lymphoma and had to go through several screenings and ultimately surgery with biopsy and my results came back negative for lymphoma. What struck me the most is how much people don’t really care about those around them & how lax even professionals can be about things like masking (I was at Memorial Sloan Kettering & the surgeon had his surgical mask below his nose during our entire meeting). The pandemic, and being sick during it, has been eye-opening to the say the least.

  6. Ravensdaughter says:

    The Dude still abides. Thank goodness…

  7. tealilly says:

    I’m so glad we didn’t lose him.

  8. Blarg says:

    I’ve been tearing up (or flat out crying) at the smallest thing this week. Every news item just makes me sadder and angrier. Leave it to Jeff Bridges to give some good news I didn’t know I needed. And it also made me tear up.

  9. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    The Dude continues to abide ❤