health as it happens

Before lung cancer, Kathy Griffin overcame addiction, suicide attempt, Trump scandal - Pacifica Tribune

Several weeks ago, Kathy Griffin was celebrating a year of being sober after overcoming a painkiller addiction, suicidal despair and the controversy over her 2017 photo shoot with the bloodied likeness of Donald Trump’s severed head.

Just as Griffin told ABC News that her sobriety gave her a newfound appreciation for life,  she learned she had lung cancer, even though she had never smoked. On Monday, she announced on Twitter that her cancer necessitated the removal of half her lung.

She said the cancer, fortunately, was caught early, was confined to her left lung and that her doctors are “optimistic.”

“I was definitely in shock,” Griffin told ABC’s “Nightline,” in an episode airing Monday.  “I’m still a little bit in shock. Not denial, but … once a day, I’ll just turn to, like, nobody next to me and go, “Can you believe this (expletive)? Is this a bitch or what?'”

“It’s stage 1,” she said. “It’s nowhere else in my body. So I need to focus on that.”

Griffin also revealed to ABC that she’d had a mass on her lung for “a long time.” It would be X-rayed every three years to make sure it hasn’t grown. Griffin said she went to the doctor recently, concerned about an arthritic-like pain that probably had been numbed by her overuse of pain pills the past several years.

The X-ray showed that the mass had doubled in size, she said. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking continues to be the leading cause of lung cancer, but there are some other risk factors that can cause lung cancer in nonsmokers.

After revealing her diagnosis, Griffin received an outpouring of support from other celebrities, with a number alluding to her past four years of struggle, which also included the death of her sister in 2017 and her mother in March 2020.

“If Donald Trump, the interminable investigations by Department of Justice, and the right-wing media could not take Kathy Griffin down … Cancer doesn’t have a chance!” tweeted author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of sexual assault and sued him for defamation.

Four years earlier, Griffin was persona non grata. Following the Trump head photoshoot, she lost work opportunities, had tour dates canceled and was publicly denounced by some high-profile friends including CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Even Trump critics thought she had taken her abrasive, in-your-face comedy too far with the stunt, which effectively depicted the beheading of a U.S. president. Griffin also was subjected to an investigation by the Secret Service.

Cooper tweeted that he was “appalled” by the photoshoot, calling it “clearly disgusting and completely inappropriate.”

Griffin told ABC that her life became consumed by the fallout from the photoshoot.

“I thought, ‘Well, I don’t even drink … Big deal, I take a couple pills now and again, who doesn’t?'” she said.

Griffin told ABC she was first introduced to pills via Provigil, an amphetamine similar to Adderall, which had been prescribed by a doctor. She said she was later prescribed Ambien to help her sleep, and then painkillers after various injuries.

“I really fell in love with them,” Griffin added to ABC. “Then, it was kind of the allure of, ‘Oh, I can regulate my energy levels or my moods. Or … I fell on my elbow in my act or something and I can be pain-free or something.’ And it got out of control very rapidly.”

Griffin initially apologized for the photoshoot, then rescinded her apology as Trump continued to say and do offensive things and show no remorse. She adopted a defiant stance and called people’s anger about the photoshoot “faux outrage.”

Griffin also launched a comeback tour, which sold out, but behind-the-scenes, she was falling into deeper despair than before.

“I started thinking about suicide more and more as I got into the pill addiction, and it became almost an obsessive thought,” Griffin said. “I started really convincing myself it was a good decision.” She explained how she began to make plans to die, and even wrote a note.

Following a suicide attempt, Griffin said her husband helped get her into treatment, and she was placed on a psychiatric hold. She had to go through a “nasty detox” and worked with clinicians who helped get her into recovery, which she said involved 12-step meetings via Zoom during the pandemic.

On Twitter Monday, Griffin assured her followers that she is going to be “just fine” and looked forward to getting “up and running” as usual. She told ABC she’s determined to not let anything get in the way of her recovery.

“Here’s the silver lining,” Griffin said. “I am so thrilled and grateful. I feel like, at 60, I’m gonna get a next chapter.”

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) for free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also reach the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.