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Four-time Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who was diagnosed with cancer months before he went public about it in early October, came forward to explain his reticence.
Bradshaw revealed he had been suffering from bladder cancer and a Merkel cell tumor on October 2 on “Fox NFL Sunday” after fans had derogated him appearing out of breath the week before.
“I couldn’t breathe,” he reflected. “That’s when everybody notices. ‘What’s wrong with him?’ Social media went, ‘Get rid of him. He needs to be off the air. He’s an embarrassment.’ And I was like, ‘Embarrassment? I got cancer.’”
“I didn’t talk about it because I didn’t want pity,” Bradshaw said on NBC’s Today. “I didn’t talk about it because a lot of celebrities — unfortunately, I’m one of those — when they say this, I think the perception around America with all the millions of people is, ‘Aw, look at him. Bless his heart. He has cancer. Well, my husband died of cancer! My kids are…’ I didn’t want that. It took a long time before I told my family.”
“I wasn’t scared,” Bradshaw told NBC’s Harry Smith of the initial diagnosis.
“Really?” Smith reacted.
“No. You know what, Harry? I don’t know why; I never was scared,” Bradshaw replied.
“I mean, you’re Terry Bradshaw. You’re bigger than life,” Smith told him.
“Well, cancer didn’t think so,” Bradshaw laughed. “I don’t think cancer cares. Listen, cancer shows no favoritism.”
Bradshaw threw what is probably the most famous and unforgettable pass in pro football history, the “Immaculate Reception,” which was called the “miracle of all miracles” by famed announcer Curt Gowdy and led to the beginning of the Pittsburgh Steeler dynasty.
Bradshaw cited his Christian faith as the source for his strength in dealing with the disease, declaring, “As a man of faith, as a Christian, my attitude was, well, if I go, I’m okay. If I stay, I’m okay.”
He had been treated for his bladder cancer, first diagnosed in November 2021, and was pronounced clear of it before he began experiencing “nerve pain in my neck and my shoulder.” He recalled thinking, “I have injured my neck before, so this is not uncommon.”
A tumor was discovered that required removal; Bradshaw admitted that he initially kept his cancer secret from his family. But he praised his wife, saying, “I can’t put into words how thankful I am for her. Seriously. I can’t imagine not holding her hand when we take off on a plane or when we land or when we snuggle up when we’re in bed together. I look at her and she doesn’t know I’m looking at her, and I’m so thankful now I’m getting emotional.”