‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Michael Landon Stopped Chemotherapy

Little House on the Prairie star Michael Landon died in 1991 after a brief battle with cancer. Here’s what he said about why he stopped chemotherapy.

Michael Landon started with a test dose of chemotherapy

Michael Landon wears a cowboy hat on the set of Little House on the Prairie.

Michael Landon | Bettmann via Getty Images

Before having the full dose of chemotherapy, Landon was given a small dose. During his final interview with Life magazine, he said it was like “testing the water with [his] toe.” According to him, this test dose went well, and he didn’t have any side effects. However, he knew he would have to go back for another treatment and receive the full dose. “Later on, they add the things that tear up your body,” said Landon during his interview.

Landon said before he was scheduled to receive the full dose, he began to panic. He was playing tennis when he suddenly began to feel “weak as a baby.” Landon wasn’t feeling sick. He said the reason he felt weak was because he was thinking about having to get chemotherapy. The thought filled him with dread.  

Why Michael Landon stopped chemotherapy

Although Landon wasn’t looking forward to chemotherapy, he decided to move forward. However, Landon stopped treatment shortly afterward. He tells Life magazine he stopped chemotherapy because he “hated” it. The actor didn’t feel this was the best treatment for him. “I hated the thought of being injected with deadly chemicals and having no control over my life,” said Landon during his interview. “So, I decided to stop chemotherapy, at least for now,” and try something different.”

Landon said his doctor told him his “only hope” was chemotherapy. However, Landon also said the chance of chemotherapy working was close to zero. “Less than 1% of patients treated are alive at the end of five years,” he said.

Michael Landon tried alternative cancer therapies

Landon chose to modify his diet and lifestyle. He began taking vitamins, eating more fruit and vegetables, and experimenting with alternative cancer therapies. Landon also used acupuncture, coffee enemas, and visualization along with what he described as “advanced medical procedures.” He described his diet as “radical.”

Landon remained committed to fighting his cancer through lifestyle and diet adjustments. He made a fruit and vegetable drink that he hoped would build his immune system.

“Every day, 13 times a day, I chop up a few organic apples and a bunch of organic carrots along with maybe some beet tops and dump them in the blender,” said Landon. “Makes a 12-ounce glass of juice and I drink it right down.”

Furthermore, Landon spoke to pancreatic cancer survivors to learn what worked for them. One person he spoke to had been cancer free for more than a decade. Landon realized that different things worked for different people and a lot depended on their specific cases.  

Landon said fans wrote him and made suggestions for how he could get well. One fan said he should swim with dolphins. “One guy says I should swim with dolphins—the sonar sounds they make will heal me in no time,” writes Landon.

Landon fought hard and tried his best to remain with his wife, Cindy, and his children. However, the Little House on the Prairie star died on July 1, 1991.

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