Talk show host Dan Bongino announced his Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis one year ago this month. Since then, he’s gone into remission and happily continues to share his political views to a wide audience on the radio, internet and television. Needless to say, his cancer battle has not slowed him down one bit.
And he’s not afraid to use his platform to push his opinions. Most recently, Bongino is threatening to quit hosting his daily radio show over Cumulus Media‘s coronavirus vaccine requirement for employees.
Cumulus carries Dan Bongino’s show on a ton of stations. He just gave them an ultimatum on their vax mandate.
“You can have me or the mandate but you can’t have both of us.”
Incredible. Proud of Dan. We all have a duty to make a stand for freedom NOW!pic.twitter.com/4HHv16EinI
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 18, 2021
It’s important to note, however, that Bongino himself was vaccinated and oncologists recommend patients with active cancer receive the vaccine and the booster but talk to their doctors about the best timing.
Bongino’s Cancer Battle
Bongino announced his Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis in October 2020. Interestingly enough, he was diagnosed after an oncology nurse who watches The Dan Bongino Show spotted a lump on his neck last year. After discovering the 10-centimeter by 7-centimeter tumor in his neck, Bongino had a biopsy. That’s when he was given his diagnosis.
Bongino had always taken good care of himself, exercised often and didn’t have family members with cancer. So, like many cancer warriors, Bongino was shocked by his diagnosis.
“I’m a 45-year-old guy who’s 6’1, 225 pounds,” Bongino previously told SurvivorNet. “The first person I called was my mom. I didn’t know what else to do. I just kind of broke down a bit… I said to my mother, ‘I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I’ve never done a drug in my entire life ever. Not one time. I work out five days a week.’ I eat clean as a whistle, and there’s zero – not a little, but zero – cancer in my family.”
Bongino eventually had treatment which included surgery and chemotherapy. He didn’t experience nausea from the chemo, he said, but the “chemo hiccups” kept him from sleeping. Luckily, he had his wife to support him through it all.
“I would get choked up, because I could not go to sleep because of these damn chemo hiccups,” he said. “My wife – I was like a child – she would be patting my back like she was burping a child and we would be up to two or three in the morning. She would be like, ‘I can’t watch you go through this.’”
Despite the hardships throughout his cancer battle, Bongino’s work got him going in the morning.
“You know, I don’t like to tell my audience, because I always said I wouldn’t do a show when I didn’t feel like it, but there were a couple days where I was on the borderline, like ‘I don’t know if I can do this today,’” Bongino admitted. “And I was like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna do it, this isn’t that bad, and I’ll get through it. Toughen up, don’t be a wuss and get on the air.’”
Bongino went into remission in March, and seems to be thriving today. He’s also said that his cancer journey has given him a fresh perspective on life – one that’s allowed him to make the most of every moment.
“I was given the gift by God of finding out that we all have an expiration date,” he said, noting that this was a positive thing. “Every minute of your life is a gift.”
Understanding Hodgkin Lymphoma
Lymphoma, in general, is a cancer of the immune system that begins in the white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphoma begins when lymphocytes develop a genetic mutation that makes them multiply much faster than normal. This mutation also forces older cells that would normally die to stay alive. From there, the quickly multiplying lymphocytes collect and build up in your lymph nodes, the small glands in your neck, armpits, and other parts of your body.
There are more than 40 different types of the disease, but Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are the main two sub-categories with the latter being more common. According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, about 90,390 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with lymphoma in 2021 – 8,830 cases of Hodgkin lymphoma and 81,560 cases of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The type of white blood cells linked to the disease determines the distinction. If doctors are unable to detect the Reed-Sternberg cell – a giant cell derived from B lymphocytes – then it is categorized as Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In a previous interview, Dr. Elise Chong, a medical oncologist at Penn Medicine, explained that Hodgkin lymphoma was most often seen in younger adults. And although less common, it is generally easier to cure than non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Dr. Chong also said lymphoma symptoms can be difficult to detect.
“The symptoms of lymphoma, especially if you have a low-grade lymphoma, often are no symptoms,” Dr. Chong explained. “People say, but I feel completely fine, and that’s very normal.”
Lymphoma treatment, in general, depends greatly on the nature of your specific diagnosis. For non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients, their cancer is more likely to spread in a random fashion and be found in different groups of lymph nodes in the body. Hodgkin lymphoma cancers, on the other hand, are more likely to grow in a uniform way from one group of lymph nodes directly to another. Some lymphomas, called indolent lymphomas, might not even need to be treated right away because they’re slow-growing. In this case, careful monitoring – including imaging scans such as PET/CT – is used to track the progress of your cancer and gauge whether it needs treatment yet.
“Where I use PET/CT in my practice quite a bit is if I’m observing a patient … and there is some new symptom or situation which makes me concerned that the patient may be changing from an indolent lymphoma to a more aggressive lymphoma,” Dr. Jakub Svoboda, medical oncologist at Penn Medicine, previously told SurvivorNet. “We refer to it as transformation.”
Monitoring Hodgkin Lymphoma
Dan Bongino is cancer-free and, clearly, doing well. But once you’re done with treatment, does that mean cancer-related care is finished? The American Society of Clinical Oncology says no.
“Care for people diagnosed with lymphoma does not end when active treatment has finished,” says The American Society of Clinical Oncologists. “Your health care team will continue to check that the cancer has not come back, manage any side effects and late effects of treatment, and monitor your overall health. This is called follow-up care.”
Follow-up care generally means talking with your doctor, doing a physical examination, having blood tests done, and sometimes even doing scans.
“At most cancer centers, follow-up visits are scheduled every 3 to 4 months for the first 1 to 2 years after treatment is completed, which is when the risk of recurrence is highest,” the ASCO website states. “After that, the time between visits increases over time. Later visits may only be 2 to 3 times per year until 5 years have passed. After 4 to 5 years, patients should discuss options for long-term surveillance with the health care team.”
Long-term surveillance can include going to a survivorship clinic in a cancer center, receiving ongoing care from your cancer care team, or transferring to a long-term plan with a primary care provider.
Quality of life is also important to consider when it comes to follow-up care. According to ASCO, Hodgkin lymphoma survivors, in particular, are encouraged to look out for symptoms of depression and to talk with their doctor immediately if they notice any signs. Always remember, your emotional health is just as important as your physical health.
Overall, every person’s cancer journey looks different. Your long-term care can differ greatly from someone with the same disease, but it’s important to talk with your doctor about what your individual plan should look like.
Thriving as a Survivor
A cancer diagnosis can change your life. But as we’ve seen in the case of Dan Bongino, you can thrive on the other side of treatment.
Take Marecya Burton, for example. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at just 20 years old. Burton was a college student-athlete looking forward to graduation at the time, but all that had to change when she was forced to move home to start treatment.
“That was definitely challenging for me,” Burton said in a previous interview with SurvivorNet. “I was looking forward to graduating.”
She also had planned on pursuing a law degree after graduation – another dream she had to give up.
“I really had to, in a sense, put my life on hold,” she said. “Sometimes I look at where I am, and I can’t help but wonder, would I be further had I not had my diagnosis?”
But instead of law school, Burton found a new passion: teaching. She became a high school teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, and she’s since made peace with her new direction in life.
“I wouldn’t change my career for the world,” she says. “It’s so fulfilling.”