Michael Douglas’s battle with throat cancer began in Canada — and now the Oscar-winning actor is giving back to the Montreal hospital that detected a disease others had missed.
An appreciative Douglas, star of Hollywood films such as Basic Instinct and Wall Street, volunteered to headline a posh fundraiser next month for McGill University’s head and neck cancer fund.
Last year, Douglas underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments in the United States for a walnut-sized tumour he now says is gone.
But the cancer diagnosis first came from the McGill-affiliated Jewish General Hospital — only weeks after several physicians elsewhere had given him a clean bill of health.
As a thank you, the 66-year-old actor, who owns a vacation home north of Montreal in the Mont-Tremblant area, personally offered his star power to the hospital.
Douglas’s publicist confirmed Monday the Montreal hospital discovered the cancer first.
“That’s where he found out he had his cancer,” Allen Burry said of the Jewish General Hospital in a phone interview.
“He was happy to do it (the fundraiser).”
Organizers of the $375-a-head gala on May 3 have pencilled Douglas in as the honoured invitee, meaning he will mingle with ticket holders, sign autographs and say a few words to the guests.
Those hoping for more face time with Douglas can buy a $750 VIP ticket, giving them access to his pre-event cocktail.
“It was his very gracious offer to help us in view of his own battle with throat cancer,” said Dr. Saul Frenkiel, a co-chair of the fundraiser who was personally contacted by Douglas.
“We’re hoping as the evening unfolds that it will be a big year (for the event) … there’s a buzz.”
Douglas and his actress wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, have even put themselves up for auction. The biggest item on the live auction list is a golf outing at Mont-Tremblant with the Hollywood power couple.
The annual event has featured celebrities in the past, including Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau and Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut.
But Frenkiel is pretty sure Douglas is the most prominent drawing card in the event’s 17 years.
“Certainly, Michael Douglas … helps to bring to the attention of the public the need to do important research in the head and neck cancer field,” said Frenkiel, a head and neck surgeon, or otolaryngologist.
He underlined the importance of the charity because some head and neck cancers are on the rise, including thyroid cancers and throat cancers caused by the human papillomavirus.
The money raised will fund research and improvements to direct patient care. Last year’s event brought in around $1.5 million, said Frenkiel, who hopes to break the $1 million mark again.
“We were very appreciative of his kind support — it was a gracious personal offer and certainly reflected his own inner personality and willingness to help battle head and neck cancer,” he said of Douglas.
Shortly after announcing last August that he had been diagnosed with cancer, Douglas told David Letterman that he had his persistently sore throat checked out earlier in the summer.
“I actually went through a litany of doctors and tests — they didn’t find anything,” Douglas said during an appearance on Letterman’s Late Show.
Douglas, who will begin shooting the film Liberace this spring, announced in January that his tumour was gone and that he had regained 12 of the 32 pounds he had lost during treatment.
“He’s doing well, he’s doing extremely well,” Burry said.