— -- In 2010, Michael Douglas was devastated to learn that he had stage four cancer.
Speaking to a group of doctors at the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies 5th World Congress in New York City on Sunday, he spoke about his grueling experience with the disease and how it affected him.
"When I learned that I had stage-four cancer, I'm pretty sure that my eyes rolled into the back of my head," he said during the event's opening ceremony. "From the little I knew, this wasn't good. And I think that was probably the scariest moment I faced."
Douglas, 69, told the crowd that he was misdiagnosed three times, after experiencing gum pain behind his molars. When a CAT Scan confirmed his doctor's suspicion that it was cancer, it was determined that the Oscar winner would be treated at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, near his home.
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"I went through seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, which somehow seemed very accurately mapped to the seven circles of hell," he recalled. "Each week I sank a little lower and I felt a little -- no, I felt a lot worse."
Because he opted not to have surgery that would put a feeding tube in his stomach ("[It] would have had consequences for swallowing and taste later on," he explained), Douglas lost 40 pounds. However, he worked regularly with a nutritionist to help him keep his weight up and credited his team of physicians for being brutally honest with him throughout his treatment -- something he said helped him maintain a necessary sense of control.
"The doctors and nurses at Sloan Kettering had warned me not to expect to feel great the moment those seven weeks were over -- that there would be another five weeks of feeling pretty awful until I could even hope to improve," he said. "All of that was enormously important. Like a soldier, I prepared for battle. ... 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."