‘Little House’ star Michael Landon was stubborn, avoided doctors ahead of fatal cancer diagnosis: daughter

As a devoted family man who also made millions across the country smile, Michael Landon put his own health on the back burner. His daughter, Leslie Landon Matthews, told Fox News Digital how growing up, the "Little House on the Prairie" star had a stubborn streak when it came to prioritizing his check-ups. "The one thing that I know was part of my dad’s personality was his stubbornness," the former actress explained. "And I don’t think staying on top of his health was a priority. I think he put it aside." 'LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE' CHILD STAR SAYS SET WAS LIKE 'MAD MEN': 'CIGARETTES AND GLASSES OF GIN' "I know that my mom often talked about getting him to his physicals," she reflected.  "[That] was always a feat. And so, by the time my dad was having uncontrollable pain in his stomach, he was on vacation with my stepmom and younger sibling. . . . He flew home early from Utah to go to his doctor’s appointment. He couldn’t ignore it anymore." At age 54, Landon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died three months after publicly announcing his diagnosis. "I think if my dad was alive today, he would say, ‘Boy, I blew it,’" said Landon Matthews. "’I really should have been staying on top of my health every year and making sure I was getting full checkups.’" "If you’re a caretaker, you’re taking care of your kids and your household, you [do] get busy and distracted," said the mother of four. "And of course, your main priority is your family. So, it’s very easy to put your health on the back burner. You need to schedule [your checkups] just like you would for anything else in your life and make it a priority." Today, Landon Matthews is determined to raise awareness of the deadly disease. In April, she participated in the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PanCAN) largest annual fundraiser, PanCAN PurpleStride. For the third year in a row, PurpleStride took place nationwide across nearly 60 cities, uniting survivors, loved ones and supporters. WATCH: ‘Little House’ star Michael Landon was stubborn about his health: daughter According to PanCAN, pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. It has a five-year survival rate of 13%. It noted that there’s no standard early detection test and few effective treatment options. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTER "Pancreatic cancer does carry a hereditary aspect to it," said Landon Matthews. "For other people out there who’ve had family members with pancreatic cancer, there are some pre-screening tests that can be done now. And [my family] has all taken the blood test. . . . Our brother Chris, in his early 40s, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. That came as a big surprise. And thank God he survived that. He gets tested regularly. But you need to be proactive about your health and not put it off." Landon walked his daughter down the aisle on September 2, 1990. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 1991. He was gone by July 1st of that year. "He did get very upset with tabloid magazines posting early while he was alive that he was going to die," said Landon Matthews. "It was very upsetting for him, especially when my youngest siblings, Sean and Jennifer, were four and seven years old. Obviously, he would probably tell people going through something like this that you want to respect the person going through this battle. You want to be able to hold onto the hope, and you want to be able to soak in your family as much as possible. Having a really good attitude, I think, is so important, which my dad continued to have even up until the end." "He really held onto the hope," said Landon Matthews. "And I think he would be blown away by what’s been done with the research and with the progress of pancreatic cancer. From diagnosis to death, it was three months for him. It was a very short amount of time that he had." Landon Matthews said that during her father’s final months, he continued to prioritize his family. It gave him the strength to keep going. "I think deep down he might’ve known that he wasn’t going to survive that particular cancer," she said. "There really wasn’t a lot back then. We’re talking over 30 years ago. I know that he tried some experimental treatments. He really, really, really tried to beat this cancer, especially because he still had little ones to raise." LIKE WHAT YOU’RE READING? CLICK HERE FOR MORE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS Before losing her father, Landon Matthews made a "goodbye book" for the star. All of the children gathered together and presented it to him. "Each of us had a couple of pages, and we had put on a beautiful plexiglass cover," Landon Matthews recalled. "And the cover of it said ‘Dad’ . . . it was all of our little heads making up the letters. I think we wanted to let him know that, no matter what, we are all here for him, that we cherish him, we love him, but we also wanted to let him know that we were all going to be OK if he wasn’t going to survive. We were all going to be able to love each other and stay together." As the family grieved, they also struggled with ruthless media scrutiny, said Landon Matthews. "It was very hurtful," she admitted. "People, the photographers, would hide in the trees around my dad’s house. We had to destroy part of our fence to be able to get my dad’s body out of the house in privacy. So there was a lack of respect, which I think continues for many people who are in the limelight, unfortunately." When looking back at her childhood, Landon Matthews’ face lit up. She described it as "a magical one."  By the time she was born, Landon was already famous for his time in "Bonanza."  "It’s not to say that families don’t go through tough times," said Landon Matthews. "My parents divorced when I was a senior in high school, and that was a devastating time for all of us. But we continued to love our dad and cherish the time that we got to have with him. You walk through stuff, you have forgiveness. He [was] a human being. We’re human beings. And you keep that communication going." At age 11, Landon Matthews even worked alongside her father in an episode of "Little House." She played a child dying from the plague. "I remember driving to work with him – I was so excited," she gushed. "We had a scene, and it was just the two of us. I remember my dad had to do the scene a couple of times because he was getting too emotional, seeing me dying. He needed to pull back the emotions a bit." Landon Matthews went on to play various guest roles in the series, including schoolteacher Etta Plum in the final two seasons. "Little House on the Prairie" aired from 1974 to 1983. PanCAN’s contributions to help other families impacted by pancreatic cancer give her hope, said Landon Matthews. And her faith in God gives her strength to keep her father’s legacy alive. "I have a very strong faith in God," she said. "That brings me a lot of peace. It’s been an important part of raising my kids, my marriage with my husband and obviously, with my dad." Landon Matthews recently went to the 50th anniversary celebration of "Little House" with her brother and sister. She felt her father’s presence there. ‘LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE’ CHILD STAR SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON ‘MORTAL' ENEMY MELISSA GILBERT "It was incredible to see the love and devotion that people have, not just towards the show, but for my dad and what he represented to them," she said. "You can’t help but feel overwhelmed in your heart and just have such an overwhelming respect for what my dad did during his life, the shows that he created and the message that he tried to get out about loving people, loving family. That’s how we feel his presence, too."

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