In an interview with AARP The Magazine, the Oscar winner said he was on a pandemic break from shooting his FX show "The Old Man" when he said he "felt what seemed like a bone in my stomach" while doing exercises.
"I thought to myself, 'Hmm.' But it didn't hurt or anything," he explained, saying he put off seeing a doctor.
Bridges said he later found out he had a large cancerous mass near his stomach.
"I was doing those fight scenes for the first episode of 'The Old Man' and didn't know that I had a 9-by-12-inch tumor in my body," he said.
"You'd think that would have hurt or something, when they were punching me and stuff," he added. "It didn't."
Bridges said filming for "The Old Man" halted when he started chemotherapy. He said the treatment suppressed his immune system, which led to him contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized.
"Cancer was nothing compared to the COVID," the actor recalled, explaining he spent five weeks in the hospital.
"I was in surrender mode," he said. "I'd say to myself, 'Everybody dies, and this is me dying.'"
Bridges said what helped him get through this challenging time was "surrendering," which he said is "not the same as giving up."
"What I really felt at the time was love," Bridges said. "Love was certainly magnified for me during this time. Not only from the people around me, but also the love in my own heart for them. So what I did was more like giving in to love, you know?"
Bridges said his wife of 46 years, Susan Geston, was his "absolute champion" while he was hospitalized.
"She really fought to keep me off a ventilator," he said. "I didn't want to be on it, and the doctors didn't necessarily want that. But Sue was adamant."
Following his hospitalization, Bridges said that setting "small goals" was the key to getting better.
"At first, they'd say, 'How long can you stand?'" he said. "For a while, my record was 45 seconds before I'd collapse. And then they were saying: 'Oh, look, you're standing for a minute! That's so cool, now can you walk five feet?'"
One of his goals was to walk his youngest daughter Haley Roselouise Bridges, 37, down the aisle at her wedding, which he was able to accomplish in August 2021. In September 2021, he said he was "feelin better" on Instagram, and in October 2021, he said he returned to finish shooting the first season of "The Old Man."
"I come back to work, and man, it was like a dream," Bridges said. "As if we'd just had a long weekend or something. I was seeing all the same faces in the cast and crew. Very bizarre. Everybody showed such dedication and hung in. We finished it. I appreciate that."
Today, Bridges said that his tumor has shrunk "to the size of a marble." He also said that he's about to start filming season 2 of "The Old Man."
"To get back to doing what invigorates you -- it feels great, man," he said. "I'm feeling that the times are demanding us to be as creative as possible. We should all work together to make something beautiful, like we do in the movies."