Former NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is being treated for a rare form of leukemia, but doctors say his prognosis is encouraging, The Associated Press reports.
Abdul-Jabbar, the long-time Los Angeles Lakers star and NBA all-time leading scorer, was diagnosed last December with chronic myeloid leukemia, he told AP Monday.
While his doctors didn't give any guarantees, the 62-year-old super star said, they informed him: "You have a very good chance to live your life out and not have to make any drastic changes to your lifestyle."
Abdul-Jabbar is taking an oral medication for the disease, according to AP. He is a paid spokesman for the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, which makes a drug that treats the illness.
Citing the way Los Angeles Lakers teammate Magic Johnson brought awareness to HIV, Abdul-Jabbar said he wants to do the same for his form of blood cancer, which can be fatal if left untreated, AP writes.
"I've never been a person to share my private life. But I can help save lives," he said at a midtown Manhattan conference room. "It's incumbent on someone like me to talk about this."
Abdul-Jabbar became concerned last year after feeling odd sensations. He went for tests at UCLA, where he dominated college basketball in the late 1960s, winning three straight NCAA championships from 1967-69.
"I was getting hot flashes and sweats on a regular basis," he said. "That's not normal, even for my age."
An exam showed his white blood cell count was "sky high" and a doctor quickly diagnosed his condition. At first, all Abdul-Jabbar heard was the word "leukemia."
"I was scared," he said. "I thought it was all the same. I thought it could mean I have a month to live."
"That was my first question," he said. "Was I going to make it?"
A longtime student in martial arts, Abdul-Jabbar said he took the approach of a samurai, to face death without fear.
"I had my face on," he said.
Instead, doctors told him CML was treatable with proper medication and monitoring, AP reported.