Catherine Zeta-Jones Reflects on Her 20-Year Marriage to Cancer Survivor Michael Douglas: ‘It’s Been A Wonderful Journey’

"I can't believe I've been married 20 years. I can't believe I have a son in college and my daughter goes to college next year, so we're kind of empty nesters," Zeta-Jones said.

Published Apr 14, 2021

Marisa Sullivan

Love at First Sight

  • Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has been talking about the secrets behind her long-lasting marriage to actor Michael Douglas.
  • Douglas, a stage 4 oral cancer survivor, was diagnosed with the disease in 2010 and luckily made it to the other side of it after going through chemotherapy and radiation.
  • A leading expert explains how the human papillomavirus, known as HPV, can cause many types of cancers, and why it’s a good idea to consider vaccinating your children.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, 51, has been married to veteran actor and oral cancer survivor Michael Douglas, 76, for 20 years; a near record in Hollywood.

While promoting her TV show The Prodigal Son on The View, co-host Megan McCain brought up the notorious story of how Douglas went after his future wife when the pair first met: By telling her he would be the father of her children. Zeta-Jones recalled how she had famously brushed him off.

“I said, ‘I’ve seen a lot about you, I’ve read a lot about you, and you know what? It’s all true, good night,'” she said. The next day, the smooth operator sent her a big bouquet of flowers as an apology. “He was right, he’s always right!” She quipped, then turned sincere. “It’s been a wonderful, wonderful journey, we’ve had a lot of fun.”

The Welsh actress was also just on Today reflecting about her love while on her virtual press tour.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I can’t believe I’ve been married 20 years. I can’t believe I have a son in college and my daughter goes to college next year, so we’re kind of empty nesters.”  The couple has been together for a total of 22 years. Their son, Dylan Michael Douglas is 20, and daughter Carys Zeta Douglas is 17. (At least Douglas followed through on his statement!)

Related: Actor Michael Douglas Beat Oral Cancer 9 Years Ago; He’s Now Celebrating Huge Milestone of 20-Year Wedding Anniversary

“He has a great gene pool … your genes are too good buddy I don’t know what to say,” she says of her husband, with her eyes shifting and a smile to someone off-camera from her virtual video call.

Zeta-Jones spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the couple’s secret to a long-lasting marriage.

“My husband is 25 years older than me; that’s not a secret. With any relationship, it wouldn’t be normal if there weren’t any ups and downs,” she said. “The constant is love and respect. We’ve never, ever lost our sense of humor, and we enjoy each other’s company.”



Douglas’ Throat Cancer Battle

Douglas was diagnosed with stage 4 oral cancer in 2010 after visiting a doctor for a persistent sore throat. During the checkup, the physician found a tumor at the base of Douglas’ tongue. The actor went through radiation and chemotherapy treatments that year, and was later declared in remission.

In the process, Douglas has become an advocate for raising awareness about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and its link to oral cancers.

“Without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV, which actually comes about from cunnilingus,” Douglas famously told the The Guardian a few years back. He added that he has had beating the tumor with chemotherapy and, “with this kind of cancer, 95 percent of the time it doesn’t come back.”

What is HPV?

Many people who are aware of the sexually-transmitted virus HPV think it only affects women and can cause cervical cancer. But men can get the virus too, and it can cause other head and neck cancers like Douglas’, along with anal cancer.

Oral cancer can sometimes be caused by tobacco and alcohol use, but HPV is often a hidden culprit, according to leading experts.

Dr. Jessica Geiger of the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center previously told SurvivorNet that both men and women can get cancer from HPV.  “The strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer are the same strains of HPV that cause throat cancer. The average patient with HPV-related throat cancer tends to be males in their 40s or 50s, who were never a smoker, or just a very light tobacco user,” she says.

Get the Facts HPV Can Cause Cancer in Men Too

The HPV Vaccine

There is a vaccine for HPV and leading experts recommend giving it to children as young as 9 years old.

Dr. Bobbie J. Rimel, gynecologic oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, tells SurvivorNet why it is a good idea to vaccinate your children.

“HPV is present in 96% of all cervical cancers and is the leading cause of cervical cancer in the United States,” she says. “Vaccination is obviously a huge part of what’s happening in our world right now. The FDA currently has expanded the approval of HPV vaccine, specifically the Gardasil 9 vaccine, to include the widest range of possible vaccinated patients, which includes children, boys and girls, from ages 9, to now men and women up to the age of 45.”

A lot of parents question vaccinating their children since it is primarily contracted through sexual contact, but it’s fairly easy to transmit even without standard sexual contact. “That sexual contact doesn’t have to be vaginal intercourse with a penis. That sexual contact can be hand to genital, mouth to genital, genital to genital contact of any kind. That being said, the FDA approval allows for children as young as age nine to be vaccinated.”

Dr. Rimel also says that “one of the reasons behind giving children HPV vaccinations and not waiting until teenage or adult years is because the immune system of children is very robust. And their ability to create a lifelong immunity based on a vaccination is greater than in the adult body.”

She also says that it may prevent further infection. “HPV vaccination is the single greatest anticancer move we can make for our children today.”

Is it a Good Idea to Vaccinate Your Children?

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