Former Penn State football great Matt Millen is battling a rare disease and might need a heart transplant.
According to The Allentown Morning Call, the 60-year-old broadcaster has amyloidosis, a life-threatening illness that has robbed his heart of most of its normal function.
But Millen, who spent 12 years in the NFL with the Raiders, 49ers and Redskins and earned four Super Bowl rings, is tough to slow down.
"You continue to do the things you love to do, maybe not at 100 percent, but you do them,” Pat Millen, Matt Millen's wife, told The Morning Call. “You don’t stop or turn into this ‘woe is me’ type of person. That’s not him.”
The Morning Call detailed how the former Penn State All-American defensive tackle is trying to maintain a normal life, by continuing to mow his 5-acre lawn in Bucks County and keeping up his busy college football broadcast schedule.
Speaking out for the first time about his illness, Millen told the Morning Call he first began to feel symptoms seven years ago, when he felt chest pain while exercising. Heart tests, however, showed nothing was wrong.
Amyloidosis, according to the Amyloidosis Foundation, is easier to treat the earlier it's diagnosed. Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed because its symptoms — chest pain, shortness of breath — often mimic those of more common diseases.
But over time, the symptoms grew worse, as Millen could no longer walk 50 feet without getting winded. He visited doctors for six years until finally getting the diagnosis last summer at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. Now, doctors say his heart is working at about 30 percent capacity and he's in need of a transplant.
After receiving the diagnosis, The Morning Call recounts, Millen tried to convince his doctor that he could wait until the end of football season, which he planned to work as a broadcaster for the Big Ten Network, to begin treatment.
"You'll be dead by the end of football season," a Mayor Clinic doctor told him.
So Millen relented and entered eight months of chemotherapy treatment, which he said left him feeling tired and slower than usual. Despite that, he kept up his broadcast schedule through treatment last fall, even making a few stops at Penn State — including a few weeks ago for the Blue-White Game.
Millen plans to travel to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles next week for the next round in his transplant evaluation.
He told The Morning Call he plans to be back in the booth next fall.