In April of 1991, Michael Landon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Roughly three months later, this awful disease would claim his life at the age of 54.
He was no stranger to the subject of death, though, having dealt with the concept from a young age. During his childhood, Michael Landon’s mother was dealing with serious depression. Her struggle was so tough that he says she was attempting suicide a lot.
Additionally, his childhood was not much better outside of the house. As a young Jewish child, he was subjected almost daily to anti-semitism in his neighborhood. Thankfully, though, Michael Landon was able to find his way in life, overcoming so many challenges thrown his way.
By the time he was 54 years-old, Michael Landon was one of the biggest television stars on the planet. He had done Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven, effectively setting up his family for life.
Michael Landon Dealing With the Traumas of His Mother’s Suicide Attempts
Depression is never an easy subject to delve deep into with someone, family, or otherwise. When Michael Landon was growing up, he saw firsthand how the disease can tightly grasp his loved ones. In particular, his mother.
After Michael Landon was diagnosed with cancer, he did many interviews. Associated Press was able to report on some of the comments he made. The interview is exceptionally candid, talking about numerous things, including his rough childhood. He talks about the trauma of his youth, seeing his mother trying to end her own life.
“She did crazy things all the time. Like, she kept making dramatic attempts to commit suicide. I’m this little boy, and I’d walk into the kitchen and find her with her head in the oven and the gas turned on.”
Many people are lucky enough to go through life without having to deal with immediate trauma like this. But, Michael Landon was forced at a very young age to confront the demons that his mother had.
Childhood Dealings Paved the Way for the Rest of His Life
He also notes that his time away from the house was not much better. It is hard for anything to be worse than seeing your mother attempt suicide. But, his town had it out for his family, and Michael Landon would have to face this head-on anytime he left his house.
“Life outside the family wasn’t much better. We were one of two Jewish families in a working-class town that had its share of anti-Semites… People in passing cars used to shout ‘Jew bastard. Jew bastard.'”
Luckily though, there was serious strength in Michael Landon, and he was able to persevere. He fought tooth and nail to overcome all of the obstacles in his way.
“And then something happened that changed my life completely and forever. One day in gym class, the teacher took us out to the practice field, and everybody had a turn throwing this crappy old metal javelin. … But when it came my turn, I threw that javelin the length of the field and into the stands at the other end, at least 30 feet farther than anybody else.”
This experience certainly helped change the course of Michael Landon’s life. The television world can thank his athletic ability for pulling him out of an ugly path in life.