“You’re never really cancer free and I should have known that,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “My cancer right now is at an absolute minimum.”
The 63-year-old Abdul-Jabbar, a six-time NBA Most Valuable Player, was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2008. He spoke at Science Park High School, after the initial screening of his new full-length documentary, “On the Shoulders of Giants.”
“It’s not life-threatening,” he said, “at this point in my life.”
Abdul-Jabbar said when he was first diagnosed with leukemia, he feared the worst.
“I thought I might be dead in a few months,” he said. “I had a good friend (actor Bruno Kirby) who was diagnosed with leukemia and was dead within 30 days. I really had no understanding of what I was dealing with.”
With the help of a medication called Gleevec, CML can be monitored better, and the chances for recovery are now improved. What’s more, Abdul-Jabbar became a spokesman for Novartis, the company that produces Gleevec.
“Medical science has made great strides over the last 20 years,” he said. “People in my position are able to live their lives to the fullest. I’m very grateful for that. I’m lucky that they caught it in enough time, and I’ve responded well to the medication. If not for the success that medicine has made, I might be part of a much different story right now.”