Sam Neill, the actor, has revealed that he had “a ferocious type of aggressive” non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In March 2022, the Jurassic Park star, 75, was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer and thought to himself, “I’m crook, I’m dying.”
He began writing as a distraction and to “give me a reason to get through the day” after being unable to work, he tells the BBC.
He discusses his illness and his nearly 50-year career on screen in his new memoir, Did I Ever Tell You This?
Neill first noticed lumpy glands in his neck while on a Jurassic World Dominion publicity tour last year.
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When doctors told him what was wrong, he described his reaction as “pretty phlegmatic,” but it forced him to “take stock.”
“I realized I needed to do something, so I asked myself, ‘Should I start writing?'” he says.
“I didn’t think I had a book in me; I just wanted to write some short stories. And I became increasingly engrossed in it.
“A year later, not only have I written the book (I didn’t hire a ghostwriter), but it has also been published in record time.
“I suspect my publishers; they’re lovely people, but I think they wanted to get it out there quickly in case I died before the book was ready.”
Indeed, he considers the book’s subtitle to be Notes from a Dying Man at one point.
There are “dark days,” he says. After the first round of chemotherapy, he lost his hair and writes in his memoir that when he looks in the mirror, “there’s a bald, wizened old man there.”
“I want my beard back more than anything. I’m not happy with the way my face looks.”
Non-lymphoma Hodgkin’s is a rare cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, the body’s vast network of vessels and glands.
The actor seen here with Jurassic Park co-star Jeff Goldblum
However, the star of films such as The Piano and TV shows such as Peaky Blinders is now in remission and remains upbeat.
“I’m not afraid of death,” he declares. “What I don’t want to do is stop living because I enjoy it so much.”
He goes on to say: “It was an adventure, albeit a dark one. And the good days are simply fantastic, and receiving good news is exhilarating.”
He emphasizes that the book is not about cancer. “I despise cancer books.”
Instead, it is primarily about his “fun” and “unlikely” life and long career. He has appeared in over 70 films, collaborating with actors such as Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, and Jeff Goldblum.