LOS ANGELES - 1989: NBA Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar smiles during his jersey retirement at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California in 1989. (Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Abdul-Jabbar disclosed in an interview published Tuesday in the LA Times that he suffers from a rare form of leukemia. The 62-year-old legend said that he has Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that produces cancerous blood cells.
The disease was diagnosed in December. But Abdul-Jabbar said his condition can be managed by taking oral medication daily, seeing his specialist every other month and getting his blood analyzed regularly. He told The Times he expects to lead a healthy life.
Abdul-Jabbar acknowledged he was scared after visiting his doctor and learning of the diagnosis.
"The word 'leukemia' is a very frightening word," he told The Times in a phone interview from New York. "In many instances, it's a killer and it's something that you have to deal with in a very serious and determined way if you're going to beat it."
Medical studies have shown that many patients with chronic myeloid leukemia who are treated can control the disease without its progressing to a move advanced stage.
Abdul-Jabbar told The Times that he is being treated with a medicine that specifically targets the abnormal protein that causes leukemia.
"I responded well to the treatment," he said. "I just want that to continue to keep happening."
In an article published in People magazine, Abdul-Jabbar said his son helped him come to terms with the diagnosis. Amir, 28, is a third-year medical student in San Francisco.
"He was a real great source for me, just that I can talk to him about it. Being a doctor, he understood what was happening, and gave me realistic viewpoint on it," Abdul-Jabbar told People. "That means a lot to me."
He has started a Facebook page devoted to helping people learn more about the disease.