Michael Douglas thinks he's over the rough part. The 66-year-old "Wall Street" star spoke to "Today" show host Matt Lauer in an interview that aired on Tuesday morning (January 11) and said that after undergoing throat cancer treatment he thinks he's out of the woods.
"I think the odds are with the tumor gone and what I know about this particular type of cancer that I've got it beat," Douglas said of his latest diagnosis, which comes about a half a year after revealing that he had the disease. "I have to check out on a monthly basis now to maintain. I guess there's not a total euphoria. I'll probably take a couple of months of getting checked out. But it's been a wild six-month ride."
In his first TV interview since undergoing cancer treatment, the Oscar-winning actor described some of the side effects of the radiation therapy, which include a shutdown of his salivary ducts for a year or two and dry mouth that affects his sleep. He also initially lost more than 30 pounds, but has put almost half of that back on by, as he admits, "eating like a pig."
"I was gaunt," he said of his appearance in paparazzi photos taken after the weight loss. "So I think [my father, Kirk Douglas,] was even concerned. And, yeah, it was not a lot of fun. It's still not. [Photographers are] there every day."
But, given that his father is 94 and his mother is in her late 80s, Douglas said he feels like he's got good, strong genes that he expects will keep him around a lot longer.
"It's put a timeline on my life," he said. "I'm 66 now. You know, I'm fortunate I've got a mother who's 88 -- she'll kill me -- she may be 87. My father's 94. So, you know, I feel good about those genes. But it's definitely a third act. And so you're a little more conscious of your time in how you choose to spend it."
He also lamented the intrusion of the paparazzi at such a difficult time, worrying that the images had an impact on the two young children he has with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones.
"And I resent the amount of imposition on our children, too, because it used to be at least they would try to keep them out of that, and they don't at all [now]," he said, adding that he suspects the tabloid photographers got some kind of "macabre" joy out of seeing him go down for his treatments. He did reveal, however, that he took his children with him to a few of the radiation treatments so they could see the "space age" equipment used to shrink his tumor.
The health scare, Douglas said, made him appreciate his friends and family even more and hold them a bit closer than he did in the past. "All of a sudden the affection from my family, from my friends, and from my fans hit me at a much deeper level than I would have ever imagined before," he explained. "And it gave me a really new appreciation of just how valuable, how precious good friends are and family."
He still has to undergo monthly checkups for three more years to be sure that the cancer is gone, but the odds likely are in his favor. The survival rate of patients with late-stage throat cancers is 50-80 percent, depending on the cause of the disease. Feeling bullish about his prospects, Douglas said he's looking forward to making more movies. "Yeah, oh, absolutely," he said about working again.
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