Bishop J. Jon Bruno has dealt with other medical issues in the past, including… (Richard Hartog / Los Angeles…)
Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno, head of the six-county Los Angeles diocese, has been diagnosed with leukemia and is undergoing aggressive treatment to fight the disease.
The 65-year-old bishop said in an open letter that he had been suffering from what he thought was a bout of pneumonia since March. He underwent further tests after treatment failed to cure the "nagging problem."
Doctors at Good Samaritan Hospital discovered that Bruno had acute monocytic leukemia, a form of blood cancer. He was moved to City of Hope in Duarte on Friday to begin treatment that includes intense chemotherapy and a possible bone marrow transplant.
"I don't do anything lightly, and I am never surprised that when God calls me, it is to do more than I asked or thought," Bruno wrote in the letter. "The doctors are of a mind that we can beat this, but I want to be honest with you: I am frightened."
The bishop has dealt with other medical issues in the past. In 2005, he had his left foot and ankle amputated to stop a persistent staph infection.
A gregarious figure with a football linebacker's frame, Bruno has pushed the church in a more liberal direction. In May 2010, he ordained the region's first two female bishops, one of whom was the first lesbian bishop ordained in the history of the Episcopal Church. Bruno openly opposed Proposition 8, which bars same-sex marriages. His support of gay rights did not waver even when conservative worshipers split from the church because of its liberal policies.
As news of his illness spread, leaders from various faiths sent well wishes and prayers and held services in his honor. "This has been a testimony to Bishop Bruno's long-standing work in the interfaith community, particularly Abrahamic communities," said Bob Williams, a spokesman for the church.
Bruno was born and raised in Echo Park. He attended college at Cal State L.A. and Cal State Long Beach before signing with the Denver Broncos of the National Football League, but an injury prevented him from playing. He later became a police officer in Burbank.
In 1977, Bruno received a master of divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood a year later.
On Sunday, Bruno celebrated his 12th year since being ordained as head of one of the largest Episcopal dioceses in the country. He presides over 70,000 members and 147 congregations in Southern California.
Bruno will remain as leader of the diocese while undergoing treatment.