Walt Is Sick
For some time, Walt’s neck had been bothering him, and he had been getting frequent treatments from the studio’s nurse, Hazel George. But in late 1966, he finally decided that he would have surgery and fix the problem an old polo injury was causing.
But, in routine X rays, doctors found a lump on his lung about the size of a walnut. Surgery was scheduled for November 11, 1966. Walt played this down, assuring his family that it wouldn’t be anything of consequence, that they shouldn’t be concerned.
He even drove himself to the hospital the night before his surgery, the following morning, after the operation, the surgeons delivered very bad news: The doctors had removed Walt’s left lung. “Well, it was just as I suspected,” the surgeon told the family. “The tumor had metastasized; I give him six months to two years.” Clearly, years and years of smoking had taken their toll.
Recalled Diane, “It was like dropping a bomb in that room.”
He stayed in the hospital for a couple of weeks and had cobalt treatments, but he grew too weak for that and was released. He wanted to go to their home in Palm Springs. But the very first thing he did, on November 21, 1966, was to call his secretary and arrange to be picked up and brought to the studio.