After announcing that he was cancer-free last month, actor Eric Braeden is eager to return to regularly scheduled programming, aka his normal life.
“I already am (in fighting shape). I’ve already kind of forgotten about it,” the star of “The Young and the Restless,” 81, tells TODAY.com over the phone.
It’s an appropriate response from the daytime legend, who hasn’t skipped a beat since he was diagnosed with bladder cancer earlier this year.
After Braeden went public with his diagnosis in April, he continued to star as Victor Newman on daytime’s No. 1 rated series, and he’s also kept up with his workout routine, only making slight adjustments. He still walks, runs and lifting weights regularly.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been a challenging road for the industry veteran, who has appeared in over 120 TV series and feature films, including “Titanic.” But he’s eager to share his journey because he knows prostate problems can be a tough topic for many men.
“There certainly shouldn’t be any (stigma)” associated with talking about your health, he says.
Eric Braeden’s cancer journey
Earlier this year, Braeden says he experienced an “inordinate amount of peeing at night” and went to the doctor to get things checked out. He underwent a procedure to reduce the volume of the prostrate and treat the frequent urination problem.
“It worked for a while, and then it started again. Obviously the prostate had regrown and was again doing its impingement work on the urethra,” Braeden explains.
The star went to the urologist again, and the doctor misdiagnosed him, saying there was nothing to be concerned about. However, four months later Braeden couldn’t urinate anymore.
“It’s a scary feeling,” he recalls.
Braeden sought a second opinion from another doctor, who took a closer look inside his bladder and found cancer. Afterward, he had yet another procedure to remove the cancer and waited for a biopsy to come back to determine the next steps.
The biopsy uncovered high-grade cancer cells, meaning the cells were more abnormal and likely more aggressive, so Braeden needed to undergo immunotherapy treatments for six weeks. Even then, he maintained his positive attitude.
“It is only uncomfortable on the day of, really. It’s not bad. It burns a lot that day, and you take a little pill to reduce the burning,” he says.
Afterward, Braeden’s medical team checked things out once again and found no remaining signs of cancer.
“But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be vigilant,” Braeden explains, adding that his team advised that he undergo three more doses of immunotherapy.
The actor describes the whole process as “manageable,” and says he appreciates how “fascinating” medicine is.
“I have enormous respect for medicine because you realize it’s not only a science, but it’s also an art. Why, for example, did the first urologist not detect the cancer when only a few months later the other one did?” he says.
Braeden’s medical team is now trying to determine if his cancer was caused by genetic or environmental factors since his older brother, who will soon be 90, had his bladder removed due to cancer.
Going public with his diagnosis
Braeden was inspired to go public with his story because of his brother’s own medical journey. “Had I not heard about his story, I would have said, ‘Oh, s—. What’s happening now?'” he says, adding that his brother is doing well.
Once he shared his diagnosis, Braeden was overwhelmed by fans’ positive words of encouragement. “What helped a great deal is the fact that when I was open with the public, it was wonderful support,” he says. “I love the audience.”
He’s now using his platform to remind people to stay on top of their medical care.
“I’m a huge advocate of doing all these tests before (something happens). Do them regularly,” he says. “I want to know my enemy. When someone threatens me, I come after them.”
“The more preventive we are, the easier it is to treat things,” he adds.
Still ‘young and restless’ after all these years
Throughout his cancer treatment, Braeden continued to work on “The Young and the Restless” — soap opera actors are in a different union from SAG-AFTRA, which is currently on strike — and he says that having a routine has been “therapeutic, with or without something being wrong (with your health).”
The actor shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. “I love my work. I still am challenged by making it as real as I can,” he says.
Physical activity has also continued to be been a priority for Braeden. In fact, he believes it’s particularly critical as you age.
“You can make your muscles stronger to the very end of your life,” he says.
Braeden recommends doing something physical every day, stressing that it doesn’t have to be a hardcore workout. “Sports have made me who I am. … From early on you learn to overcome obstacles,” he says.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com