Norm Macdonald, a Canadian-born actor and comedian best known for hosting Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” died on September 14 after a nine-year battle with cancer. He was 61 years old when he died.
Macdonald’s management company, Brillstein Entertainment, revealed his death to Deadline. Many were taken aback by the revelation, as he had kept his diagnosis a secret.
“He was really proud of his comedy,” said Lori Jo Hoekstra, the comedian’s longtime producing partner, and friend, who was reported with him at the time of his death.
“Norm will be sorely missed,” she wrote, adding that he never wanted the condition to impact how the audience or any of his loved ones saw him.
Andrea Macdonald, Macdonald’s niece, took to Twitter the week after her uncle’s death, stating, “Uncle Norm’s final farewell is today. It’s been a week, yet using the past tense to allude to him still feels wrong.
My Uncle Norm was a lot of things to me as a kid.” She said, “He was always sweet and odd in a lovely manner. The tributes are both touching and painful.”
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What kind of cancer did Norm Macdonald have?
Leukemia was the cause of death, according to Norm Macdonald’s brother, Neil Macdonald. In an interview with CBC News, Neil revealed that he kept it private because he didn’t want it to damage his comedy.
Macdonald’s cancer was classified as “acute leukemia” by the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
Although there are other forms of leukemia, the Malignancy Center describes it as “a blood cancer that starts in the blood and bone marrow.”
It “generally happens when the body produces too many aberrant white blood cells, interfering with the ability of the bone marrow to manufacture red blood cells and platelets.” Between 2012 and 2016, leukemia was the sixth most lethal form of cancer, according to the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
Understanding Acute Leukemia
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which primarily affects the elderly, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which mostly affects youngsters, are the two main types of acute leukemia.
However, according to the University of Colorado Cancer Center, AML is “quite uncommon at Norm Macdonald’s age.”
Acute leukemia patients experience a rapid onset of symptoms. It can be exceedingly aggressive, and as a result, sufferers’ lives are typically cut short. Patients with chronic leukemia, a different type of leukemia, live longer than those with acute leukemia.
People with acute leukemia, according to Dr. Dan Pollyea, clinical director of leukemia services at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, are either cured or have a limited life expectancy.
Macdonald lived for nearly a decade following his diagnosis, which, given Dr. Pollyea’s prognosis for patients with acute leukemia, would make his case unusual. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, those diagnosed with AML have a five-year survival rate.
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What Are the Treatments for Leukemia?
Unfortunately, according to Dr. Dan Pollyea of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, there are no screening tests for leukemia. It is, however, in your best interest to contact your doctor if any combination of frequently known symptoms persists for an extended length of time.
Some types of chronic leukemia, according to WebMD, may not require treatment if the patient remains stable. Otherwise, doctors can employ a variety of approaches, depending on the type of leukemia and the patient’s overall health and age. Chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell transplants are only a few examples.
There is no cure for leukemia as of this writing, while it is possible for a patient to go into remission after therapy (via Healthline). Remission is a period during which doctors are unable to detect cancer in the body, yet the chance of recurrence still exists.
The good news is that clinical trials are still underway to find better screening tools and therapies. A list of trials accepting patients can be found on the National Cancer Institute’s website.
Norm Macdonald Isn’t the Only Celeb to Have Been Diagnosed with Leukemia
Norm Macdonald isn’t the only celebrity with leukemia. After being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 24 and given six months to live, TV actor Evan Handler went on to have a successful acting career, portraying various roles, including Charlotte’s husband on HBO’s “Sex and the City” (via HealthGrades).
Ashley Park, who played the edgy and effervescent Mindy Chen on the Netflix series “Emily in Paris” and delighted Broadway audiences as Gretchen Wieners in the musical “Mean Girls,” was diagnosed with leukemia when she was a teenager, just as she was about to make her Broadway debut.
Park underwent chemotherapy and, after avoiding the subject for years, told Cosmopolitan in a 2020 interview that her “greatest defining trait as an artist and a person” was her “suffering through cancer.”
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