Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Important anniversaries

It was one year ago today that I had an MRI that determined the cancer I had was far more serious and extensive than doctors had first thought.

The anniversary of my biopsy results was August 25th.  That’s when I was told I had Stage 4 throat cancer, the worst possible.

It’s funny. I forgot the date.  The anniversary passed.  But anyway, the doctor said it appeared to be limited to my tonsil—they could see the tumour— and they said they could get at it and literally remove my tonsil and that would be it.

But two days later--a year ago today-- I had the MRI, which is like a PET scan of my head and neck, and they discovered that the cancer went from the base of my neck to the top of my tongue.

And they said it was growing up and down, which was not good. The good news was they they didn’t find cancer anywhere else in my body.

In the short time from a year ago today to October 1st when I started chemotherapy, the cancer kept growing.  It had grown sideways-- which it normally doesn’t do, and it dug what they call “fingers” in the cartilage of my throat.  All in less than five weeks!

And that was not good.  That’s why I was doused with chemotherapy.

It didn’t work and they didn’t get the “fingers” out until I went to The Klinik and had what’s called embolism treatment, which allowed me to get the Cyberknife to get the “fingers” out.

We’ll be getting to all that in The Klinik.

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting a lot of emails, as you know, but lately I’ve been hearing  from a lot of people in the medical profession: nurses, people who work in MRI, catscan and X-ray departments, all kinds of technicians.

One is a friend named Julie who teaches at a small nursing college on Ottawa, Canada.  She asked if she could show The Klinik website to her colleagues and students. (Of course!)

And they’re all fascinated and asked, Why isn’t this treatment available everywhere?  Why do you have to go to Germany? 

The answer is simple:

The pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and doctors.

Ha!  I’m sounding like Michael Moore and I don’t want to sound like Michael Moore.

I’ve told you about the people I met at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago. One of them runs a Paul McCartney website and she put together a page. Check it out by clicking here.

Thanks to “Sweet Banana” and all of you who’ve put together pages and photos like the one above.

And there’s one more thing about this week’s anniversaries:  From the very first time the doctor told me I had cancer, I was determined to not waste any time-- and to get this thing out of my body!

I’ll get into that as I keep up with the story of my year.  And I’ll try to remember the important anniversaries!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Christina Applegate

I read about Christina Applegate this morning and I felt terrible.

She found out that she had breast cancer and opted immediately for a double mastectomy. This beautiful, vivacious young woman went for the last resort first! I wonder if she knew that there were other options she could have taken, not only here but obviously in other countries. Like Germany.

It was one year ago today, August 19th, 2007, that I went to the doctor because I couldn’t swallow. He took one look at my throat and said, “It looks like throat cancer. Go get a biopsy.”

In fact, it was Stage 4 throat cancer. And I was told by that second doctor to have the “morbid operation”—doesn’t that sound nice?— an operation that would remove my ability to speak and swallow. The doctor recommended the full-blown operation, radiation, and chemotherapy, and then plastic surgery later to rebuild my neck, the lower right part of my jaw and the top of my right shoulder.

That was the first option I was given.

The next doctor told me to get my life in order.

The third told me that there was a treatment, and if I lived through the treatment— if the treatment didn’t kill me-- I’d have a cure,

The most important thing in a situation like this is to take charge of your life. I went ton nine different doctors before I found out about The Klinik.

Christina found out that she had cancer in one breast and she had a double mastectomy! That should have been the last resort. And that’s why it’s so important to get the word—and the options—out there.

As for me, my preventative treatment continues.

I started taking thalidomide on Friday. I know, most of us remember it as that drug that caused birth defects when it was taken by pregnant women back in the Sixties. But low doses of thalidomide stop growth of micro cancer cells. I have to sign all kinds of papers to get it. If I lose a prescription I have to report it, in case it gets in the wrong hands.

I have to take the pills for three months. And I’m off right now to get another bag of Erbitux.

So take charge! I feel for Christina and send her all my best. I only wish she hadn’t taken the last resort first, and isn’t sending the wrong message.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

At the Beatles fan convention

I was at a Beatles fan convention in Chicago over the weekend.

The Fest for Beatles Fans has been in operation for 34 years, attracting fans from all over the world. I was there for a couple of reasons. My partner in Frozen Pictures, Burt Kearns, and I were screening The Seventh Python, our film about Neil Innes. Neil was there, too. He’s been a huge attraction at the fan fests because of his work with the Beatles and the Rutles.

And I was there with my brother Mark, as a Hudson Brother. Mark’s also been a Beatles Fest star because he produced and wrote with Ringo (we both were friends with John). And now that our Razzle Dazzle Show TV series from the Seventies is coming out on DVD, and we’re going to do a Hudson brothers reunion concert and film with our brother Bill, it was a weekend of signing autographs, jamming onstage, and telling stories.

Word had definitely spread among the fans about my year and The Klinik. I can’t tell you the amount of people who came up to me on that autograph line, and in the lobby, in the elevator, in the restaurant— even in the middle of the night in the parking lot when someone pulled a fire alarm at three in the morning-- to talk about my recovery. Well, I can tell you, and I will. It was a lot! So many people told me my story was inspirational. And everybody— everybody— had their own story. “My aunt had cancer... my brother had cancer... my daughter... my mother— I have cancer.”

One gentleman had the same type of cancer I had. He unfortunately had a big scar across his neck because he had the radiation treatments and the whole works. He, like me, beat it, but it made me feel bad because he should have at least had the option to try what I did. Even if it didn’t work, he could have had the operation, but he didn’t have the option.

He didn’t have the option.

That’s what I don’t understand about our medical system. And by “our,” I mean the American medical system.

My brother Mark was at my side the entire weekend. And he stayed close the entire time I was in Germany. He must have texted me twice a day, asking if there was anything he could do, making sure I was all right, praying for me, encouraging me. And it’s important to have that support system. My family, Mark and my brother Bill, my friends-- all that is so important to the healing process.

All this, from the time I learned I had cancer in August a year ago, led me to that Beatles fans convention over the weekend, sitting there signing autographs and standing up to pose for photos.

They say your life flashes before your eyes. Well it doesn’t flash. It passes before your eyes incredibly slowly. I don’t want to say I did a Bucket List, but my cancer did make me think of what was at the top of that list of what I’d like to do. And the first thing that flashed was playing one more time with my brothers Bill and Mark.

So here we are. And I have to thank all the people in Chicago who told me that they want to get involved and join this crusade.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'm going to Capitol Hill like Michael J. Fox

Things have got to change in this country. And they're going to change. We're going to make them change.

I told you about Erbitux. Erbitux (generic name cetuximab) is a cancer medication that slows the growth of cancer cells. For me, it's part of the maintenance program I'm on to make sure that I remain cancer-free. I use a bag of it every week. I go into the doctor's office in Santa Monica and get an IV drip. It takes about an hour.

As I mentioned last week, each bag of Erbitux costs $4,000. The same bag of Erbitux costs four hundred and twenty five dollars in Germany, by the way. But I have insurance, so it doesn’t matter, right?

Well, this week I found out that my insurance company won't pay for the Erbitux because they consider me to be "cured." I called up and I told them this is part of my treatment. This treatment is keeping me alive and making sure I stay cancer-free. The guy said there's nothing they can do. I said, “There is something they can do.” And I told him, "You will pay for this. One of these days, you'll pay for this for everyone.”

There are people dying out there every day, and they can’t afford the medicines they need because insurance won’t cover them-- if they can afford insurance in the first place. As it is, when I go to a doctor, I have to pay for the visit out of my own pocket and then I have to submit the bill to the insurance company and try to beat it out of them.

Today, I get another letter: the insurance company says they won’t pay for a medicine because they say they don’t know what it has to do with treating my cancer!

Why am I paying for insurance?

I'm telling you, it got me going. I decided I want to go to Washington. I want to go to Washington, D.C. and speak before Congress. I want to look them in the eye and say, "Shame. On. You. Shame on you for not doing something about this. People are dying."

It’s a coincidence. I saw Michael J. Fox on TV. They showed him speaking before Congress. And he was making some really important points about Parkinson's and cell research. But I noticed he was reading from a sheet of paper.

I'm not going to read from a sheet of paper! I'm going to say it in my own words. I'm going to speak like I normally do-- I won't swear, though-- and I'm going to talk for all the people who are looking for help and help isn't available to them. Like many of the people who send me e-mails. I decided. I want to go to Capitol Hill.

McCain? Obama? All of them. They're going to hear from me. They're going to hear from us. All of us.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A wing and a prayer

I just got an appearance release in the mail. An appearance release is a contract that I’d sign to give my permission to appear in a TV show or movie. In this case, it’s an NBC TV special about Farrah Fawcett’s cancer journey.

Farrah was my “cancer buddy” in Germany.

We traveled together from The Klinik to other private medical facilities in places like Frankfurt and Munich, and her friend Alana Stewart was there with a small video camera, shooting video along the way. Combine that with the stuff my wife Vinnie and I were shooting, and it was a little surreal. As they say, “You can take the kids out of Hollywood…” But it wasn’t a movie, it was a real life-and-death situation. And even when we were going through it, we all knew we had to use the experience to help others.

Farrah is a sweetheart. She really is. She had it much worse than I did. Doctors here had given up. But she found new life in Germany.

Of course I’m giving permission to appear in her TV special, which right now is called A Wing and A Prayer. They also want to do a follow-up interview with me and I’ll do that, too. Farrah and I both broke into Hollywood in the Seventies. We ran in some of the same circles. But now, she’ll always be my “buddy.”

Farrah’s TV special will focus on Farrah, and her ordeal. She’s an American icon and it should be about her.
But The Klinik isn’t about me. I’ll be in it— and so will Farrah and Alana, among many others-- and I’ll tell my story, but my experience is merely the jumping off point to something much, much bigger.

Hey, I’m just glad my hair grew back in time to be on TV!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Not alone

I’ve probably mentioned more than once that I’m no blogger, but if things continue the way they have in the five days since we went public with this site and The Klinik project, I can probably fill all my posts with emails and letters people are sending.

I won’t, but I will say I’m touched by the words of support and humbled by the responsibility now that people are coming to me, looking for answers.

There’s a lot to write about. For now, I’ll share some more emails, if only to show that you’re not alone:

Include my email to one of many who just saw the Klinik website. Bravo you! As a person who worked volunteer in hospice and has seen friends go through the ravages of treatment, I applaud and am so proud of you for showing there are alternative therapies that work outside our pharma-controlled medical industry. People die and they don't have to. I am glad you took that extra step of taking your wellness into your own hands. Perhaps if big Pharma would let our doctor's practice medicine correctly, they might eventually get it right.

Again, I applaud you and owe you a big hug for doing this! I already have two friends going through treatment I am going to tell about the Klinik!


I checked out the site this morning. You are a brave & wonderful soul and bless you for sharing your story. I watched my Daddy die from cancer and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

Blessings, baby doll. Take care of yourself.


I couldn't sleep last night so I woke up and saw your bulletin on myspace. I had no idea how ill you were. And I am so happy to hear that you found an alternative to your miraculous recovery. God is truly good all the time. 

My Mom is a cancer survivor from years ago when uterine cancer was pretty much a death sentence, but I remember the chemo just knocking the very wind out of her every weekend. As you know, it not only effects the person going through the cancer, it effects the entire family. But she is still here at almost 78 years of age.

I don't knock American medicine either, but alternative medicine seems the way to go now. I will keep you and your family in prayer Brett. I hope we get the opportunity to meet someday.

God Bless you keep you...


I just ran across your website about The Klinik. I am fighting back the tears as I read about your journey and view the photos. You've been through so much and I think it's wonderful that you're sharing this information with others. We are all so thankful that you made it through!

The cat's claw reminded me of a clinical trial we had for sharks cartilage. So much has changed since my Protocol Research days at MD Anderson Cancer Ctr. I left in 99 and the advances that have been made are incredible. There's never a 'good time' to have cancer. But this may have happened to you at this time for a reason. Maybe you were meant to survive this so you could tell others.

I can't wait to see the movie!

Peace & Love...