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Cancer survivor Michael Douglas discusses 40-pound weight loss and chemotherapy

Michael Douglas lost 40 pounds while battling stage 4 throat cancer in 2010, but has been cancer-free since 2011.

Michael Douglas recalls 40-pound weight loss during throat cancer battle and chemotherapy
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

Douglas made the revelation during a July 27 speech (see video) before 3,000 physicians at the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies opening ceremong in New York City. Michael attended the event with his wife, actress Catherine Zeta Jones.

Douglas, who's now healthy and well at 69, was shocked when he was first diagnosed with stage four throat cancer, after having been misdiagnosed three times.

"When I learned that I had stage four cancer, I'm pretty sure that my eyes rolled into the back of my head," said Michael. "That was probably the scariest moment I faced."

Seven Grueling Weeks of Chemotherapy and Radiation

Douglas underwent seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiation and chemotherapy and lost more than 40 pounds after opting not to get a surgery that would have put a feeding tube in his stomach. Michael decided against the surgery because it would have permanently affected his taste and ability to swallow food.

During radiation treatment, Douglas said he was too weak to move around, and stayed confined to a green sofa at home. “When I was ill, I mostly lay on that couch," he recalled. "I watched a lot of sports, anything where I didn’t know the ending."

Michael is better now and thanked the team at Manhattan's Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for helping him recover. Douglas said his cancer struggle required mental toughness and he prepared to fight his cancer like it was a war.

"Like a soldier, I prepared for battle," he said. "It was my job to toughen up and get ready for the treatment and later on for my recovery, and that's what I was able to do."

Zeta-Jones: Michael's Cancer Triggered Bipolar Breakdown

Douglas' cancer also affected the health of his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones, who confessed she "was a mess" throughout Michael's chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

In 2013, Catherine revealed that Douglas' cancer diagnosis had triggered a bipolar breakdown that later led to two hospitalizations.

“When you get sideswiped like that, it’s an obvious trigger for your [chemical] balance to be a bit off — not sleeping, worry, stress," Zeta Jones told the Telegraph. "It’s a classic trigger.”

In April 2013, Catherine checked into rehab for 30 days to seek treatment for bipolar II disorder and to get her medications monitored. It was the second time in two years the Oscar winner was hospitalized for bipolar II, a mood disorder marked by extremes in elevated or irritable moods with periods of depression.

While Zeta Jones, 44, had suffered from bipolar disorder for years, her husband's 2010 diagnosis with stage four throat cancer threw her into extreme emotional distress. Catherine, who has two young children with Douglas, says the late-stage diagnosis threw her for a loop.

When Michael was diagnosed with cancer I really thought, 'You are going to have to wipe me off the floor.' This happens to people all the time, but it’s still a huge shock when the cards start to fall. I thought I didn’t have the [emotional] tools to cope."

Douglas has been cancer-free since 2011, and Zeta-Jones is also doing well, but continues to treat her bipolar II with medication and therapy.

Catherine says conquering cancer (and mental illness) has brought her family closer, but admits it has been a tough road. “It did make us closer," she says. "But I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

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