Oct. 14, 2013 at 1:21 PM ET
Michael Douglas went public with his cancer diagnosis, but the actor told Samuel L. Jackson on British talk show "This Morning" that he wasn't quite honest about the disease.
Douglas had a tumor at the base of his tongue, although for nine months doctors kept telling him it was only an infection and giving him antibiotics. When he was finally properly diagnosed his doctor suggested he tell people he had throat cancer, not tongue cancer.
"If we do have to do surgery, it's not going to be pretty," Douglas recalled his doctor saying. The surgery could've resulted in Douglas losing part of his jaw and tongue, so the doctor suggested Douglas misrepresent his type of cancer, and the actor agreed.
The actor also had to deal with his children seeing lurid headlines about his gaunt appearance as he lost weight during seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. "I looked pretty weird," Douglas told Jackson. But when he warned Dylan, now 13, that he might face some troubling magazine covers, he found his son was already savvy to the ways of the tabloid press. "You mean like the story when you had three weeks to live, Dad?" Dylan asked.
Douglas also encouraged other men who might be suspicious about a mole, bump or other change that could indicate cancer to get a checkup immediately, rather than wait. "I made that mistake," he said. "I don't want to see you do it."
Douglas has now been cancer-free for two years, and says that doctors tell him this means there's a 95 percent chance his cancer will not return.