Read the Moving Letter John Wayne Sent Nat King Cole After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

by Liz Holland

Golden age icon John Wayne, nicknamed “The Duke,” was a staple in western and war movies throughout the 20th century. While his undeniable legacy as an actor and filmmaker carries on, we’ve discovered even more reasons to love him.

The official John Wayne Instagram account shared a piece of history on Monday. The post contained a Western Union telegram from late 1964. The telegram showcases a message from John Wayne to jazz icon Nat King Cole, shortly after Cole was diagnosed with lung cancer. The message reads, “Sorry to hear you’ve joined the club but it can be whipped. I had one snatched with the top half of my left lung three months ago. Don’t let it get you down. Was just listening to the radio and heard a record of Christmas songs… I want to thank you for the joy you’ve brought me and my family. Keep punching.”

John Wayne Sends Nat Cole Some Cancer-Beating Encouragement

The photo also shows a penciled-in date of death for Nat King Cole. The musician passed less than two months after Wayne sent the telegram. Cole passed away a few short weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous lung.

“After Nat Cole was diagnosed with cancer, Duke sent him an encouraging telegram to keep going,” part of the post’s caption from the official John Wayne Instagram account reads.

John Wayne himself beat lung cancer in 1964. However, unfortunately, he would pass away from stomach cancer 15 years later in 1979. It’s clear that the awful disease affected Wayne’s life in more ways than one, leading his family to create the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in 1985. 

A Lasting Legacy Offering Hope For Cancer Patients

On the foundation’s official website, the “about us” page gives a bit more insight into how the organization came to be. The page addresses Wayne’s multiple battles with cancer, and explains that during his struggle, Wayne found a passion for helping others death with the awful illness.

An excerpt from the official website reads, “During this difficult period, he [John Wayne] became passionate about helping others fight this terrible disease. To honor his memory, his family created the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in 1985. The mission of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation is to bring courage, strength and grit to the fight against cancer. John Wayne Cancer Foundation funds novel and innovative programs that improve cancer patients’ outcomes and save lives through research, education, awareness and support.”

The website also details the multitudes of ways you can get involved. If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit the official website here.