Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Douglas on Cancer Screening
Patient Perspective Samuel L. Jackson interviews Michael Douglas on his cancer story and why you should get screened now.
In this in-depth interview, screen legend Samuel L. Jackson sits down with Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas, discussing his battle with oral cancer, his supported charity One For The Boys, an exclusive Male Cancer Awareness platform and fundraising campaign, and why men everywhere can and should get tested.
Samuel L. Jackson: What specifically prompted you go to the doctor?
Michael Douglas: I had a sore infection that felt like it was behind my teeth — behind my gums — and it was bothering me for a while. I went to a periodontist, I went to an ear, nose, and throat doctor, and the evaluation was that I had an infection and needed antibiotics. They gave me a load of antibiotics and said “You should be fine.” Three months later it still wasn’t fine — it was still really hurting. I went back and said, “Hey doc, it’s still bothering me.” So I received a CAT scan with the periodontist and they gave me the same round of the antibiotics. I went off for the summer, then came back — now it was close to nine months since I first went. I was telling this to a friend of mine who happened to have testicular cancer a long time ago and he suggested to come up to Montreal and have the head of the department look at it.
“You see something that looks a little strange? Check it out. You’re not a chicken. That’s the truth. Support it.”
SLJ: The oncology department?
MD: Yep, head of oncology department. He just took a tongue depressor and I will never forget — because he just took the tongue depressor, I opened my mouth, and I saw the look, this look in his eye and I went “Oh.” He said as he pulled it out slowly, “Well I think you need a biopsy.” So they asked me to come back in two days later and they said “You have cancer.”
SLJ: Ok, so when you hear “the C word” what goes off in your head?
MD: It kind of rushes all over you and you get a little numb — very numb — and I said “Ok ... ok.” Then what happened was I got there two days later and that’s when he told me it was stage IV. I said “Stage IV?” And that’s when I got scared!
SLJ: Because probably when you were talking to the other doctors you were stage I or you were just in a little pain and ...nine months later?
MD: Nine months later it was easily stage I or stage II. So there you go for that little diagnosis. He said stage IV with head and neck cancer is a little bit better than the other ones. But then the decision to bring in the surgeon was made — and so we actually lied as far as the press. So we kind of got to sit here; there’s no way to hide this. I said we just had to come out and tell them that I have cancer and that’s that. But the surgeon suggested, “Let’s just tell them it’s throat cancer.” I asked, “Why’s that?” He said, ‘If we do have to do surgery it won’t be pretty. You’ll lose part of your jaw and your tongue.”
“We’ll talk about everything we’ve done, but not our health because you don’t want to sound weak to the other guy or you don’t know if the other guy’s been through it.”
SLJ: Have you found the reason we’re doing this thing called One for the Boys is because guys tend not to deal with their health in ways that women do? Why do you think that is?
MD: Machismo I guess, we think we’re supposed to suck it up.
SLJ: We’ll talk about everything we’ve done, but not our health because you don’t want to sound weak to the other guy or you don’t know if the other guy’s been through it. Why do you think this is?
MD: A good friend of mine, he had the same and didn’t say much. But I have another friend now and they don’t want you to talk — they’re really confidential when they talk to you. They just say “don’t say anything.” And I don’t know if they’re worried about the sympathy vote or not, so that’s a good question.
SLJ: We’re here for One for the Boys and to raise awareness about cancer. What would you say to the guys of the world — what they should do if they find something, feel something, or suspect something?
MD: Hey guys, you look at your body every day. You know every mole, everything that’s there. You see something that looks a little strange? Check it out. You’re not a chicken. That’s the truth. Support it. Feel a bump somewhere? Check it out. Please, I made that mistake and I don’t want to see you do it, so be a big boy. Go for it!