Talk radio superstar Rush Limbaugh has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, he told his listeners Monday morning, shortly after telling his staff the same news.
The conservative host, who has been broadcasting “The Rush Limbaugh Show” since 1988, said he first noticed something wrong around his birthday in mid-January. By Jan. 20 he had an answer, confirmed by two medical institutions, he said.
The 69-year-old said he currently has no symptoms other than shortness of breath, but will be taking the next couple of days off to deal with his health. He hoped to be back on the air Thursday, but acknowledged that might not happen.
“I thought about not telling anybody. I thought about trying to do this without anybody knowing, because I don’t like making things about me,” said Limbaugh, a Broadcasting Hall of Fame member since 1998. “But there are days that I’m not going to be able to be here because I’m undergoing treatment or I’m reacting to treatment.”
The worst thing that could happen, Limbaugh said, is if he tried to cover it up and then his absences made people suspicious. The news would eventually leak, he said, and then people would be asking why he tried to hide it.
Limbaugh previously withheld news of his hearing loss in 2001, which had become noticeable that May and resulted in near-total deafness by that October. He had cochlear implant surgery that December.
In October 2003, he revealed a yearslong addiction to painkillers —one that went back to the mid-’90s, around the time he discovered cigars —and then went to rehab, returning a month later.
“You know me, I’m the mayor of Realville,” Limbaugh said Monday. “So this has happened and my intention is to come here every day I can and do this program as normally and as competently and as expertly as I do every day, because that is the source of my greatest satisfaction professionally, personally.”
He said he had a great team of doctors assembled and it was just a matter of implementing a plan that he would hear about later this week.
“We’re at full speed ahead on this,” he said.
The host also noted that he had a “deeply personal relationship with God” that he doesn’t proselytize about but had been focused on “intensely” in recent weeks. And then he spoke to his millions of loyal listeners as if he were addressing them individually.
“I can’t describe this, but I know you’re there every day,” Limbaugh said. “I can see you. It’s strange, but I know you’re there, I know you’re there in great numbers. And I know that you understand everything I say.
“The rest of the world may not, when they hear it expressed a different way, but I know you do. You’ve been one of the greatest sources of confidence that I’ve had in my life.”
A Limbaugh representative did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.