Kiwi actor Sam Neill reveals blood cancer diagnosis

Sat, Mar 18
The Jurassic Park actor says he is being treated for stage-three blood cancer.

Kiwi actor Sam Neill has revealed he is being treated for "a ferocious type of aggressive" stage-three blood cancer.

The Jurassic Park star was diagnosed with angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma after experiencing swollen glands during a publicity tour in March last year.

He initially underwent chemotherapy but found his body didn't respond.

Although he is now cancer-free, Neill is on a new chemotherapy drug which he will continue to receive monthly for the rest of his life.

The 75-year-old has penned a memoir about his life titled Did I Ever Tell You This? where he opens up about finding fame throughout his celebrated career in film and television as well as his life on his New Zealand farm.

He writes in chapter one: "The thing is, I’m crook. Possibly dying. I may have to speed this up.”

In an interview with The Guardian, Neill said his book is not a cancer memoir, however his health battle has created a "spiral thread" throughout the story.

“I can’t pretend that the last year hasn’t had its dark moments,” he said.

“But those dark moments throw the light into sharp relief, you know, and have made me grateful for every day and immensely grateful for all my friends. Just pleased to be alive.”

Speaking to BBC, he said he was "pretty phlegmatic" when doctors told him he had cancer but it made him "take stock of things."

"I thought I need to do something, and I thought, 'Shall I start writing?'" he said.

"I didn't think I had a book in me, I just thought I'd write some stories. And I found it increasingly engrossing.

"A year later, not only have I written the book - I didn't have a ghost writer - but it's come out in record time.

"I suspect my publishers, they're delightful people, but I think they wanted to get it out in a hurry just in case I kicked the bucket before it was time to release the thing."

He initially underwent chemotherapy but found his body didn't respond.

Neill says he lost his hair after the first round of chemotherapy.

In his book, he said when he looks in the mirror, "there's a bald, wizened old man there."

"More than anything I want my beard back. I don't like the look of my face one bit."

Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) is a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma which develops in the lymphatic system - the vast network of vessels and glands in the body.

Last year, Neill was made a Knight Companion of the Order of New Zealand by Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro in a redesignation ceremony at Government House this morning.

His redesignation from Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit to its equivalent honour, a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, was approved by the late Queen Elizabeth II earlier in the year.

"Greatly honoured today by the Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro at Govt House Auckland," Neill said on Twitter.

"Dame Cindy was kind enough to tap me with the sword. Big day, very grateful."

In a Facebook post, Dame Cindy called the 75-year-old icon a "legend of the silver screen".

"He has been part of some of Aotearoa’s most beloved films and television series since the early '70s, later rising to international acclaim leading Hollywood blockbusters. Congratulations Sir Sam!"

Neill was named in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2022.


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