Michael Landon’s Daughter Reveals He Avoided Doctors Before Cancer Diagnosis

Bonanza Michael Landon, 1959-73
Everett Collection

No one really likes going to the doctor and Michael Landon was no exception. Unfortunately, avoiding the doctor’s office can lead to some horrible consequences. For years, Landon avoided checkups until he couldn’t hide from the pain he was feeling anymore. The pain turned out to be pancreatic cancer and he sadly passed away just three months after announcing his diagnosis publicly. He was only 54 years old. Now, his daughter Leslie Landon Matthews is sharing more about the final months of his life and how she carries on his legacy.

Landon Matthews admitted, “I think if my dad was alive today, he would say, ‘Boy, I blew it. I really should have been staying on top of my health every year and making sure I was getting full checkups.’” Now, she is dedicated to raising awareness around pancreatic cancer which currently has a very low survival rate. This year, she participated in the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PanCAN) largest annual fundraiser, PanCAN PurpleStride.

Michael Landon, with daughter Leslie Landon, 1967

Ivan Nagy/Everett Collection

Prior to his death, Landon Matthews recalls how he was very upset with tabloids posting about his cancer and impending death, especially because of his younger kids. She added, “He did get very upset with tabloid magazines posting early while he was alive that he was going to die. It was very upsetting for him, especially when my youngest siblings, Sean and Jennifer, were four and seven years old. Obviously, he would probably tell people going through something like this that you want to respect the person going through this battle. You want to be able to hold onto the hope, and you want to be able to soak in your family as much as possible. Having a really good attitude, I think, is so important, which my dad continued to have even up until the end.”

Little House on the Prairie: A New Beginning Leslie Landon, Pamela Roylance, David Friedman, Shannen Doherty, Lindsay Kennedy, Stan Ivar, (Season 9), 1974-1983

Everett Collection

While he died far too young, he did leave behind an incredibly long-lasting legacy. Little House on the Prairie remains one of the most beloved shows of all time and we surely have Landon to thank for that. Landon Matthews even got to appear in several episodes of Little House and said that she was so excited to work with him, starting at the age of 11. She played a child dying from the plague in an episode of the series and later played several guest roles including schoolteacher Etta Plum in later seasons.

She said about working with her dad, “I remember driving to work with him – I was so excited. We had a scene, and it was just the two of us. I remember my dad had to do the scene a couple of times because he was getting too emotional, seeing me dying. He needed to pull back the emotions a bit.”

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June 2020

Celebrating TV's best dads from the 1950's-1990s

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