John Wayne

John Wayne Came up With the Term ‘the Big C’ for Canc*r

John Wayne has many iconic quotes in his movie career. However, the saying that has carried on the most isn’t one that came from one of his many westerns. In his later years, Wayne was dealing with cancer and came up with a less scary term for the illness. People use “The Big C” a lot to refer to cancer, but many do not know that it was initially coined by John Wayne.  

John Wayne has many iconic quotes from his movies

Wayne (born Marion Morrison) starred in over 170 movies. Many of these movies were westerns, including StagecoachThe SearchersRio GrandeTrue GritRed RiverHondo, and The Lonely Trail. While known for embodying the cowboy persona, he did star in several movies across the spectrum of genres. 

Throughout his career, he had several iconic quotes that are fondly remembered in cinema history. This includes “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim” from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway” from True Grit. However, his most memorable quote might be one he came up with himself. 

John Wayne coined the term ‘The Big C’ to deal with his cancer battle

Many people use “The Big C” to refer to cancer more casually, making it seem less frightening. However, many don’t know that the first person to use this phrase was the western star. According to Mental Floss, in the early 1960s, John Wayne was battling lung cancer and was worried Hollywood would stop casting him if they knew about his illness. After undergoing an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung, Wayne called a press conference in 1964 in his living room where he first used the term. 

“They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” the actor told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

In her book John Wayne: A Father, Aissa Wayne said this was the only time she ever heard him refer to the disease as cancer, even when he got it again 15 years later. Wayne beat lung cancer, but “The Big C” was found again later in his stomach. Wayne lost his second battle with “The Big C” on June 11, 1979, at the age of 72. 

John Wayne’s last words were shared by his daughter

Outsider reports that John Wayne spent his final days in the hospital after his stomach cancer worsened. The hospital tried to make him as healthy as possible, but the efforts ultimately failed. He spent his final days going in and out of consciousness but was surrounded by his family.

His daughter, Aissa, was at his side at the time of his death. She asked her father if he knew who she was, to which he responded, “Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” His final words proved that the western tough guy still had a sensitive side to him. 

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