Michael Douglas speaks candidly with Matt Lauer about cancer recovery and the paparazzi

Michael Douglas, who was diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer last August, sat down with Matt Lauer for an exclusive interview about his recovery, which aired this morning on Today. Watch it below. After intensive chemotherapy and radiation, the tumor is gone, Douglas says, but, “it’s not a total euphoria” yet. He’ll need to be checked on a monthly basis. His salivary ducts have been closed down as a result of the radiation for a year or two, so his mouth is very dry, particularly at night, and there’s still a fatigue factor. But he’s strong enough to work out and is getting his fingers ready to play Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s biopic. Yes, he’s looking ahead — from what he knows about this type of cancer, he says hopefully, “I’ve got it beat.”

Like most cancer patients, Douglas says, the diagnosis has changed him. “All of the sudden, the affection from my family, from my friends, and from my fans hit me at a much deeper level then I would have ever imagined before.” With a mother in her late ’80s and his father, Kirk, at 94, he said he feels good about his genes. But, at 66, he now has a timeline for his life. “It’s definitely a third act,” he says. “And so you’re a little more conscious of your time and how you choose to spend it.”

As someone whose father went through whole brain radiation five years ago when she was 30, and went with him to treatments but never saw inside the room, I’m fascinated that Douglas chose to take his children, ages 8 and 10, to a couple of treatments and show them the mask used to “bolt you down like Hannibal Lecter or something.” It was good for them, he says. “They thought it was cool, all the space age stuff. And so it made up for all those days when dad was lying on the couch and couldn’t get up.”

Unfortunately, odds are we can all relate somewhat to what Douglas and his family have gone through, but there’s one side to his story most of us can’t imagine: the paparazzi. “There was sort of a macabre enjoyment out of sort of watching me go down there for a while,” he says. The photos, which showed him gaunt (he’s gained 12 pounds back of the 32 that he lost) made it difficult for family and friends to trust him when he said he was doing okay, and prompted Kirk to return to New York for 10 days. “He came up to the apartment every day to see me,” Douglas says, because of those photos.  

Read more:
Entire Michael Douglas interview set for ‘Dateline NBC’
Michael Douglas discusses cancer on ‘Letterman’

Comments (14 total) Add your comment
  • tracy bluth

    I’m glad he’s recovering. I’m sure he’ll be wonderful as Liberace.

  • Meg

    Yes, the paparazzi are disgusting. But what can be done to elimate the industry since they will argue first-amendment freedoms?
    But very glad to hear that Michael Douglas is doing well. Looking forward to Liberace!

    • Cris

      What can be done, unlikely as it is, is for people like you and me to stop buying the rags that employ the paparazzi. If we stop spending money on grainy, blurry pictures of celebrities, the advertising in those magazines (and TV shows) will dry up and so will the money.
      Unfortunately, based on a three-minute wait in a supermarket checkout line today and seeing how many people were thumbing through the tabloids, it doesn’t seem like people will stop buying them anytime soon.

  • pink petunia

    Michael sounds very optimistic. But few fully recover from Stage 4 cancer. This type of cancer can spread without one even knowing it.

    • bobjustbob

      I pray for him and his family. He had a very advanced stage and find those severe types come back in some shape or form. Pray that does not happent to him.

  • Sarah

    As a cancer patient myself I am glad to see a celebrity speak of the real hardship of treatment and recovery. So many celebrities say they had one treatment and now everything is fine and dandy. The truth is you have years of follow-ups and tests. It can be very draining.

  • Jackie

    Great to hear Michael doing well. Saw those pictures and thought the worst.always been a fan and look forward to seeing him as liberace. Keep fighting Michael. From Jackie in ireland

  • john

    my prayers have been answered Michael We are alike in a few ways
    younger wife ,young children and a God given talent.
    Your ordeal has also brought me closer to my family and friends.
    God Bless you Michael “live your future years with grace and love ” life is short for us all

  • daviddavid

    Great news. He still looks a tad overwhelmed by the tretament and yes, a bit thin … but, God bless him.
    He’s one of the last originals!

  • j.mellon

    Glad Michael Douglas is doing better. He’s very lucky, and it sounds like he knows it. He sounds humbled and has learned something few people get until it’s too late –treasure your family and friends. We just lost my father in-law to this type of cancer after 14 months of treatment. It had spread nearly everywhere. He was not even 60 yet. Thanks for being open, honest, MD.

  • ‘k

    Hardly anyone I know of admits to buying the tabloid papers. Yet clearly plenty of people are buying them. Otherwise they would go away. That’s just sad. I remember seeing a picture of Paul Newman during his last days plastered on the cover of one of these rags. You couldn’t help but see it even if you didn’t want to becasue these things are displayed so prominently. I remember wondering how someone can justify doing that for a living.

  • Just Me

    I’m sure he really does appreciate life in general so much more now. I know that I understand the friends and family thing, though mine have always been dear to me, I’ve also been guilty of taking it for granted. Even if he stays completely cancer free from now till he dies I’m sure he will always have that nagging doubt in the back of his mind (is it back?) I know that if ever I’m one of the lucky ones to rid myself of stage IV cancer (not his kind) I know it will forever stay in the back of my mind I think.

  • Ann Whitmarsh

    Dear Micheal, this may or may not get to you,but I want you to know that I have been praying for you.God has healed you please give Him the glory!

  • Joe

    god bless him!

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