Michael C. Hall is an American actor born in 1971 in Raleigh North Carolina. He began his acting career in theatre, appearing in numerous Off-Broadway shows, before taking the stage in Broadway shows like Chicago, and Cabaret. His first major television role was playing David Fisher on the drama series “Six Feet Under”. More recently, he is best known for his starring role as the vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan on the crime drama “Dexter”. In 2010 at the age of 38, Hall announced that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, and was undergoing treatment for the disease.
Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that arises in cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell, and are part of the immune system and help fight infection. These cells travel through a network of vessels called lymphatics, allowing them to move from lymph nodes and lymphatic organs, like the spleen and bone marrow, to sites of disease and infection. There are two main types of lymphocytes, called B cells and T cells. Abnormal B cells typically cause Hodgkin lymphoma. These cells no longer behave properly, and grow at an enhanced rate.
Because lymphocytes travel all over the body, the cancer can present anywhere. It is usually first observed as an enlarged lymph node, but can spread to almost any tissue or organ in the body. Michael first noticed lumps in his neck, which he jokingly referred to as looking like “alien eggs”. When biopsied, these lumps revealed that he was suffering from Hodgkin lymphoma; the same news that close to 1,000 Canadians receive each year.
Fortunately, Hodgkin lymphoma is often curable when detected early. It is most commonly treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Michael began a course of treatment after filming the fifth season of “Dexter”. He experienced some of the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy such as hair-loss, which was particularly devastating for an actor whose career involves being in the public eye.
After completing his treatment regimen, he was declared in full remission later that year. With healthy blood cells, Michael returned to his role as a blood splatter analyst on “Dexter” and went on to film three more seasons of the popular show. He remains in remission to this day.
This article is written by Kathleen Watt, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, and part of the Terry Fox Foundation Training Program in Transdisciplinary Cancer Research in Partnership with CIHR.