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Richard Simmons, 75, reveals cancer diagnosis hours after apology for misleading post amid retreat from public life

The fitness guru has retreated from public life over the past decade


Actor Richard Simmons poses for a portrait in 1992 in Los Angeles, California.
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
20 March 2024
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Richard Simmons maintains a quiet life away from the public eye, having retreated from the spotlight for over a decade, making his last public appearance in February 2014.

Since then, the fitness guru, 75, has maintained a stream of updates through his Facebook page, recently creating major buzz with a statement mistakenly leading fans to believe he was "dying."

Hours after clarifying that wasn't the case, he shared a new Facebook post

American fitness coach Richard Simmons poses for a portrait in 1992 in Los Angeles, California.© Getty Images
Richard Simmons revealed that he had been diagnosed with skin cancer

"Mirror mirror on the wall, what's that blemish which is so small?" he mused at the start. "There was this strange looking bump under my right eye. I had a tube of neosporin which I would put on [in] the morning and the evening….it was still there. It was time to call my dermatologist."

After a visit to the dermatologist, and getting a few skin cells scraped to test, he continued: "He comes back about 20 minutes later and says the C word.  You have cancer.  I asked him what kind of  cancer and he said Basal Cell Carcinoma. I told him to stop calling me dirty names.  He laughed."

American fitness coach Richard Simmons works out in circa 1980 in Los Angeles, California.© Getty Images
The fitness guru became popular because of his videos and TV appearances in the '80s

Richard joked that he was recommended botox in his forehead and for his smile lines, but simply responded "Not today, doctor" and left. 

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"When I got home I called Dr. Ralph A. Massey  who was from England. I waited in his waiting room and said hello to all of these people who had skin cancer as well. I was shocked to see all of the skin cancers that they had."

Personality Richard Simmons post performance at SPARKLE: An All-Star Holiday Concert at ACME Comedy Theatre on December 13, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.© Getty Images
Richard has retreated from public life for over a decade, seen here in one his last appearances in December 2013

Painting a more light-hearted picture of the scene, Richard added: "I slowly walked in this pristine room and Dr Massey came in to greet me…'I have to apologize I just finished eating lox, bagels, and onions.' He smelled like a deli. But I didn't care, I just needed his help."

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"He explained that he has to burn my skin to remove the cancer cells.  There was no numbing it, just had to be done with a small instrument. As he started burning my skin a tear dropped down my cheek." 

Richard Simmons attends the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 28, 2013 in New York City.© Getty Images
Hours prior, he had to apologize for a misleading Facebook post which led many to believe he was "dying"

He continued: "You can't cry during this and he wiped my tear. The burning really hurt my skin. It lasted about 30 minutes. 'Come back in an hour and a half and see if I got it all out.'"

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While the Sweatin' to the Oldies creator never fully finished his tale, he did tease that there was more to come, writing "to be continued" and ending with a further picture of his diagnosis as his fans inundated his comments section with love and support. 

Richard Simmons attends An Evening with Richard Simmons at the Mount Airy Casino Resort on January 8, 2010 in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania.© Getty Images
"I asked [the doctor] what kind of cancer and he said Basal Cell Carcinoma. I told him to stop calling me dirty names. He laughed."

"After driving around the city, I went back to  some sad news. I didn't get it all out.  He burned my face again.  This time was worse than before…It was deeper. I did not cry this time but I did grit my teeth. 'Come back in another hour and a half.'"

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