The Power of Gratitude During Cancer Journey
- Actor Val Kilmer, 63, shared a heartfelt tribute to his mom for Mother’s Day, expressing that he missed her.
- Val Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 after feeling a big lump in his throat.
- Throat cancer is cancer that develops in your throat or voice box. There are different types of throat cancer, according to Mayo Clinic. The two most common throat cancer types are laryngopharyngeal cancer and oropharyngeal cancer.
- Kilmer has clearly developed a strong sense of gratitude in the years following his cancer diagnosis.
- Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal cancer surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet that his patients who live with gratitude tend to handle treatment better because this attitude is one way to stay mentally healthy.
Actor Val Kilmer, 63, is showing that it doesn’t matter how older you are – sometimes, you just need your mom.
The cancer survivor shared a heartfelt tribute to his mom for Mother’s Day, just as the “Iceman” celebrates the 37th anniversary of his iconic “Top Gun” movie.Read More
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“That’s my mom,” Kilmer wrote.
“For all the beautiful souls who have embraced the role of motherhood, your love, and sacrifice are immeasurable. You have given us life, nurtured us, and shaped us into who we are today. My heart reaches out to each and every one of you. LOVE is what it’s all about,” Kilmer said.
Kilmer became a household name largely following the hugely popular film “Top Gun,” which premiered on May 16, 1986. The movie was an iconic hit during the 1980s. According to Box Office Mojo, “Top Gun” was the highest-grossing film in 1986 earning $176,781,728.
Kilmer portrayed the naval aviator “Iceman” in the movie. Memorable quotes such as “You can be my wingman anytime” are traced to the famous actor. The successful franchise was refreshed in 2022 as “Top Gun: Maverick.” The remake saw many old cast members return, including Kilmer.
Kilmer’s Cancer Journey
Val Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. In an interview with The New York Times, Kilmer did not immediately see his doctor for symptoms associated with his throat cancer.
He told the outlet, he felt a “big lump in his throat” in 2014. After waking up in a “pool of his own blood” he was convinced to see his doctor who confirmed his cancer diagnosis.
He underwent chemotherapy to help treat the cancer. He also underwent a tracheotomy procedure which had an impact on his ability to speak. This procedure connects the windpipe to a hole in the front of your neck.
Interestingly, the actor continued working on production projects using artificial intelligence technology despite the impact the tracheotomy had on his voice. The technology was created by Sonantic which used samples of Kilmer speaking to recreate his speech patterns.
“Our first hurdle with creating the voice model for Val was that his team provided a relatively small amount of recorded material, which we knew would make it more difficult to produce the model,” said Sonantic in a blog post on working with Kilmer and his team.
“We first cleaned the audio, carefully removing background noise without destroying the speech content. Next, we generated transcripts from the audio and paired the audio and text together in short chunks.”
Since undergoing treatment for throat cancer, Kilmer has said he’s “healed of cancer” in his memoir, “I’m Your Huckleberry.”
He also added since battling cancer, “I’m so grateful.”
Understanding Throat Cancer
“[Throat] cancer can cause symptoms in the throat including sore throat, pain with swallowing, difficulty swallowing, the sensation of a lump or mass in the throat, ear pain, and less commonly voice changes, hoarseness or difficulty opening the jaw,” Dr. Ryan Hughes, a radiation oncologist at Wake Forest School of Medicine, told SurvivorNet.
“In the majority of patients, [throat cancer] does not cause symptoms in the throat but instead first presents with an otherwise asymptomatic mass in the neck.”
Throat cancer is cancer that develops in your throat or voice box. There are different types of throat cancer, according to Mayo Clinic, which includes:
- Nasopharyngeal cancer, which begins in the part of your throat behind your nose.
- Oropharyngeal cancer, which begins in the part of the throat behind your mouth.
- Hypopharyngeal cancer, also called laryngopharyngeal cancer, begins in the lower part of your throat.
- Glottic cancer, which begins in the vocal cords.
- Supraglottic cancer, which begins in the upper part of the voice box.
- Subglottic cancer, which begins in the lower part of the voice box.
The two most common throat cancer types are laryngopharyngeal cancer and oropharyngeal cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Throat Cancer Risk Factors and Symptoms
Mayo Clinic says risk factors that can increase your risk of throat cancer include:
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol use
- Viral infections including human papillomavirus (HPV)
- A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease occurs when your stomach acid flows back into your esophagus.
- Exposure to toxic substances
Throat cancer symptoms depend on where the cancer develops in the throat, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center. But signs include:
- Hoarseness or changes in your voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent sore throat
- Ear pain
- Lump in the neck
- Breathing problems
- Unexplained weight loss
WATCH: Living with gratitude.
Finding Gratitude After Cancer
Val Kilmer has built up a great deal of gratitude over the years for what’s important in life. Loved ones like his mother or the everyday joys of life are all part of the gratitude he has.
Gratitude, simply put, is being thankful for what you have and showing appreciation for it. It’s a mindset that helps people going through tough times and our SurvivorNet experts encourage cancer warriors and their loved ones to practice gratitude.
Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal cancer surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet that his patients who live with gratitude tend to handle treatment better because this attitude is one way to stay mentally healthy.
We all know battling cancer or disease can be extremely stressful. If you’re able to find things that you are grateful for can help manage the stress. Stress and anxiety can lead to physical issues, and practicing gratitude can help get both under control.
“The patients who do well with cancer, they live life with that kind of gratitude, but in terms of everything,” he explained. “They’re grateful, not for cancer, but they’re grateful for an opportunity to know that life is finite.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, multiple studies have indicated that learning to live with gratitude can lead to more happiness and less stress. One way to exercise gratitude is to take time to think about things you appreciate every day. One way to exercise gratitude in your life includes writing down those things in a journal.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- What can I do if I’m struggling to be thankful for what I have in my life?
- Are there local resources for people wishing to improve their mental health?
- What else can I do to help reduce my stress level during my cancer journey?
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