"It’s the price that you pay if you make the decision to go ahead and do treatment to try to prolong your life," the popular conservative radio host said Tuesday while also thanking his wife for her support

By Adam Carlson
May 27, 2020 01:15 PM
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Rarely one to mince words, radio host Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday opened up to his listeners about his draining months of treatment for advanced lung cancer, which he was diagnosed with in late January.

While he acknowledged the latest round of therapies was "kicking my a--" — saying, "For the last seven days, I have been virtually worthless, virtually useless"— he also said there were some things he was reluctant to discuss, such as the specific type of cancer he had, the particulars of how it was being treated and his prognosis.

"The temptation here is to start divulging a lot of stuff, and I’m not gonna do that," Limbaugh, 69, said on Tuesday's show, "because I vowed not to be a cancer patient on the radio. I vowed to shield as much of that from the daily program as I can."

The popular and typically outspoken  (and sometimes controversial) conservative host also said he didn't want to open himself up to what he called undue scrutiny from news outlets.

"I got several emails ... with questions about my physical condition, and it’s one of the reasons I didn’t divulge a whole lot of detail. There are many reasons why I don’t do that: a) privacy b) media doing investigations," he said.

"I’m still here, and that’s all that’s important," he said. "I can’t and don’t want to divulge any more than that. If I were to go into much greater detail, you know, the media would start researching everything I said."

Still, Limbaugh did get candid about some things, telling listeners an update was "probably overdue."

"These are extremely challenging times for me, medically — nothing that millions of you haven’t gone through or aren’t going through," he said.

He said he was in his "third wave" of treatment and it had been taxing.

"I’ve just now begun week two of this third cycle, and each cycle is three weeks," he said. But "the impact on the tumor in these three weeks is not expected to be significant."

Rush Limbaugh in 2012
AP Photo/Julie Smith
Rush Limbaugh (right) at the State of the Union in February
MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

He said he had earlier spent four weeks on a drug that exacted a heavy toll on his body: the risk of vision loss in his right eye, muscle swelling that kept him from walking for four days and "pain from the waist down all the way to the tip of my toes."

That, however, had "bought some time for the next phases to begin, which I am now in, and I just keep plodding away each and every day."

He said he was grateful for his listeners prayers and feedback, and he thanked wife Kathryn for her support and advocacy on his behalf.

"You know as well as I do that in a lot of circumstances like this, some people look for the door and look through the rearview mirror. And not only has that not happened, as I say, she has immersed herself in my treatment and in my care, being the advocate for me wherever we end up going for treatment and all of that," he said.

In 2010 he married Kathryn, his fourth bride, in Palm Beach, Florida, where an unlikely guest — Elton John — serenaded them.

"I could not be doing this without Kathryn," Limbaugh said Tuesday. "I have never experienced anybody so selfless. I marvel at her selflessness. I don’t know how she does it."

"She is able to appear optimistic, happy — I mean, bouncy on occasion. No complaining. Which is such a blessing, ’cause I don’t know how to deal with people that complain since I don’t complain much," he said. "But the things that she is doing to ease me through this and to make it as less arduous for me that it can be, I’m blessed."

Kathryn, he said, "doesn’t allow herself to get down — or, if she does, I don’t see it," even though "this is as devastating for her as it is me."

"She has this ability to immerse herself in other people’s sadness and disappointment and make them feel better," he said.

Reflecting on his own symptoms throughout his treatment, Limbaugh said he was prepared for what was happening to his body.

"It’s the cost. It’s the price that you pay if you make the decision to go ahead and do treatment to try to prolong your life," he said. "I’m doing extremely well, all things considered, the fact that I’m even here today."

There'd been challenges: "One particular kind of treatment that works in 97 percent of patients ... did not work in me, and it’s because of a 1 percent mutation I have that led to my lung cancer in the first place," he said.

During his cycles of treatment, there had been a three-week gap after the drug that had so debilitated him. "You people who have done this will know exactly what I’m talking about, during those three weeks with no treatment ... I felt normal, as normal and as good as I can remember feeling," he said.

In the wake of his diagnosis four months ago, "Every day I wake up and the first thing I do is thank God that I did," Limbaugh said Tuesday. "Just waking up is a blessing. I know many of you are praying daily and nightly. I happen to believe that they work. I believe that they are sustaining me, and I pray for the energy to be able to do this."

Still, he said, "I do not have the energy that I used to have."

Rush Limbaugh in 2018
JIM WATSON/Getty Images

"The reality is, the day is gonna come where I’m not gonna be able to be here," Limbaugh said. "I don’t know when that is — and I’m hoping that it is months, years." He has discussed the contingency of airing best-of compilations instead or having guest hosts, he said.

"I hope that that doesn’t happen. And I’m not, at the same time, making any excuses," he said.

Hosting his show, he said, was "one of my primary loves in life — and you in the audience are the reason that this love of my life has been so extraordinarily happy and successful. It would not have happened without you."

He intended to keep working and to keep living.

"I have this given set of circumstances, and I have to adapt to them and part of the adaptation is being honest with myself about what I can and can’t do and then zeroing in on what I want to make sure that I can continue to do that I like doing for as long as I can," he said. "And that happens to be the purpose of the treatment."

Limbaugh, one of the most popular hosts in the country, rose to national fame during the advent of conservative talk radio in the ’90s. He announced his cancer diagnosis while on the air in early February.

He said then that he “first realized something was wrong on my birthday weekend,” on Jan. 12, and his diagnosis was later confirmed on Jan. 20.

President Donald Trump used part of his State of the Union address in February to award Limbaugh, who was in attendance as a guest of honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor.

That move soon drew backlash from some celebrities and liberal politicians, in light of Limbaugh's long history of provocative statements. He helped perpetuate the racist claim that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and once called a Georgetown student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for advocating for birth control.

Earlier this year, he went after former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg for being gay.

On Tuesday's show, after discussing his cancer treatment, Limbaugh turned to defending Trump's decision to tweet a baseless conspiracy theory that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough murdered a young woman who worked for him in 2001.

In fact, the woman accidentally died after hitting her head. Her widower last week sent an emotional letter to Twitter urging the site to remove the president's posts about her death.