Matt Millen, former NFL great, has been diagnosed with a rare disease called amyloidosis that has robbed his heart of most of its normal function.
According to The Morning Call, Millen’s heart is working at about 30 percent of its capacity, and he is believed to eventually need a heart transplant. To help in treatment, Millen has been going to chemotherapy once a week for the past eight months. Chemotherapy is believed to halt the abnormal cell growth.
Millen, a former ESPN employee who still calls games as an analyst for Big Ten Network, first began having symptoms of the disease seven years ago when he had chest pain during exercise. He went for tests over the next six years without a diagnosis, before the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, figured out what was going on last summer.
“I know what you have, and you’re not going to like it,” Millen said the doctors told him, according to The Morning Call. Millen continued to work games last season for BTN.
Millen was drafted in the second round out of Penn State in 1980 and played 12 seasons at linebacker in the NFL for the Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins. He made the Pro Bowl one, was an All-Pro twice and won four Super Bowls.
After his NFL career, Millen became a color commentator on NFL games before being hired by the Lions in 2001 as the team’s president and general manager. He held that role for seven-plus seasons before being fired early in the 2008 season, when the Lions went 0-16.
Millen, according to The Morning Call, appears to be taking his diagnosis with a level of positivity, still mowing his lawn and woodworking in his Pennsylvania home.
“I’ve always lived this way,” Millen told the newspaper. “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. It’s ridiculous to feel sorry for yourself. I’m thankful for what I have, and I’ll take what I get.”
While amyloidosis can affect anyone, 70 percent of those diagnosed with the disease are men, according to the Mayo Clinic. Of those, many are between ages 60 and 70. Let’s hope Millen can continue fighting, and get the heart he so desperately needs.