Matt Millen, who won Super Bowls with the Raiders, 49ers and Redskins before becoming a broadcaster and then the Detroit Lions’ chief executive, is suffering from a rare heart disease and likely needs a transplant, he told Mark Wogenrich of the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. Doctors say Millen has amyloidosis, which occurs when proteins build up in organs or tissue and robs the heart of its ability to function.
According to the Amyloidosis Foundation, the disease affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. Symptoms — which include chest pain and shortness of breath — often resemble those of other diseases and go unchecked until permanent damage has been done. Millen learned that he had the disease last year after years of symptoms and has undergone chemotherapy nearly every week for the past eight months. There is no cure for amyloidosis, only treatment, and Millen’s heart is operating at only about 30 percent capacity, likely necessitating a heart transplant.
Millen, 60, told Wogenrich that he’s not going to let the disease stop him from his usual activities, including his role as a color commentator for Big Ten Network football broadcasts (a job he plans to continue this fall). But if an evaluation at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles shows he’s a top candidate for a heart transplant, he would have to spend at least four months in California to be available in case a donor heart comes in, and then to recover from the transplant itself.
“I’ve always lived this way,” Millen said. “You take what you get. I look over my life, and it’s been a storybook. I have an awesome family, a phenomenal wife, and you can’t ask for more.
“So you’re not supposed to take the good with the bad? When a bump comes up in the road, you deal with it,” he said. “It’s ridiculous to feel sorry for yourself. I’m thankful for what I have, and I’ll take what I get.”
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