Terry Bradshaw was the signal-caller that spearheaded the Steelers’ domination of American football in the 1970s. He was the quarterback that threw the pass leading to Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception. Bradshaw was among the many who mourned Franco’s passing. 

“Franco, forever we will love you and we’re going to miss you. We know you’re in a better place,” Bradshaw said on Fox NFL Sunday. Following the broadcast, an appeal asking people to pray for Terry Bradshaw went viral, raising concerns about the wellbeing of another member of that legendary Steelers team. 

Bradshaw has recovered from bladder and skin cancer in the past year

Following a late September 2022 episode of Fox NFL Sunday, Terry elicited worried reactions from fans after appearing to mix up his words and struggle to maintain his train of thought. 

Several days later, Bradshaw revealed he’d battled bladder and skin cancer in the past year. He explained: “In November, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I went to the Yale University Medical Center — surgery, treatment. As of today, I am bladder-cancer free. That’s the good news.”

Bradshaw said he felt discomfort in his neck in March 2022. A checkup revealed that he had a rare form of skin cancer dubbed Merkel cell tumor. “I had that surgery done at M.D. Anderson in Houston,” He added. 

The Pro Football Hall of Famer assured fans that he’d recovered from the diagnoses: “Folks, I may not look like my old self, but I feel like my old self. I’m cancer free, I’m feeling great. And over time, I’m going to be back to where I normally am.”

Bradshaw said on Today that he kept his illnesses secret because he didn’t want pity. He went public with the diagnoses after receiving harsh criticisms from fans. Terry said:

“I couldn’t breathe. That’s when everybody notices. ‘What’s wrong with him?’ Social media went, ‘Get rid of him. He needs to be off the air. He’s an embarrassment.’ And I was like, ‘Embarrassment? I got cancer.’”

Terry told the outlet that his wife, Tammy, played an instrumental role in his recovery. “I can’t put into words how thankful I am for her. Seriously,” He said. “I look at her and she doesn’t know I’m looking at her, and I’m so thankful now I’m getting emotional.”

Terry takes medication to manage clinical depression

Terry Bradshaw
Rich Graessle/Getty Images

Terry Bradshaw battled mental illness during his NFL career. Bradshaw fought back from career and personal lows until he couldn’t anymore: his third divorce knocked him over the edge. 

Bradshaw suffered from anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, and intense anger. He self-medicated using alcohol, leading to alcohol abuse. Terry said (per Bleacher Report): “I was drinking a lot, and I didn’t like the path I was on. I was frightened by what might happen. I wasn’t sure if I was going to drink myself to death.”

Terry talked to a preacher who connected him with mental health professionals. In 1999, Bradshaw was diagnosed with clinical depression. Bradshaw will probably have to take medication for the rest of his life to manage the condition. He said:

“Depression is a physical illness. The beauty of it is that there are medications that work. Look at me. I’m always happy-go-lucky, and people look at me and find it shocking that I could be depressed.”

Bradshaw told Men’s Journal that he went public with his condition because he wanted to help others. “To think that coming out with [depression] is a sign of weakness is wrong,” Bradshaw said. “It has to be represented as an illness, period. I want nothing from it, other than to help people.”

Terry told Esquire that even with medication, the physical symptoms of depression still appear. Bradshaw told the outlet that his wife identifies the signs and does whatever she can to help. Terry explained:

“Everything comes over you. You get emotional, you get sad. You get sick at your stomach. And when I do that, when I know when it’s coming on, I get real quiet. And normally, I’ll go sit in the rocking chair on the porch, and Tammy can tell and she’ll come out and she’ll say, ‘What can I do?’”

Bradshaw’s marriage to Tammy is his fourth and hopefully his last. Terry said he knew Tammy was the right person for him, but he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to commit. It took three years of counseling – a crucial part of Terry’s life – for him to commit to Tammy. 

“I’m like, this is how it was supposed to be,” he said. “She loves taking care of me. I love taking care of her. I think this is how it’s supposed to be.”

Bradshaw experiences memory loss likely stemming from decades of head impacts

In November 2013, Bradshaw talked to USA Today about suffering from memory loss. Terry told the outlet that frustrations stemming from lack of focus and fading memory prompted him to visit a clinic in Newport Beach, California. He said:

“I was frustrated I couldn’t remember stuff, and I got really upset. It was driving me nuts. I got tested to see what condition my brain is in. And it’s not in real good shape.”

Terry told the outlet that decades of head impacts likely caused his memory problems. “You can’t play 30 years in football and not have conditions,” Bradshaw said. Terry said he wouldn’t allow a son to play the game. He continued:

“I lose stuff. I forget stuff. I walk into rooms and go, ‘Why am I in here? What did I come in here for?’ Is that normal? I’m 65. I don’t know.”

Bradshaw said he pulled out of a lawsuit between the NFL and former players because he didn’t want to be used. He also opined that by excluding himself from the settlement, the players who really needed the money got a bigger share. 

Despite taking medication, Terry faces memory-related challenges. Terry told the outlet that learning a 90-minute performance took him way longer than it should have. He explained:

“By anyone else’s standards, it would probably take them three weeks to learn all the songs and everything. It probably took me six months to learn everything. And I never remember all the dialogue. They put buzzwords on cue cards, so I glance over and look at those.”