Louis Gossett Jr. & Toxic Mold
Editor’s Note: The original version of this article ran in the “BV Wellness” section of the online publication Black Voices.
Louis Gossett Jr. Bounces Back After Fight with Cancer & Deadly Toxic Mold
Anyone who has seen Louis Gossett Jr. on the big screen knows him to be a strong character actor, from his award-winning role as the unflinching Marine Gunnery Sergeant in ‘An Officer And a Gentleman’ to the example of a longtime happily married man in ‘Why Did I Get Married, Too.’
So it is unfathomable to think that nearly two years ago, doctors told him he had only six months to live. Gossett suffered from deadly toxic mold poisoning from his home. Later, he discovered he had prostate and kidney cancer through routine screening. The actor writes about triumphing over death in his newly released life-affirming memoir, ‘An Actor and A Gentleman.’
“It was a downhill spiral,” the 74-year-old California resident told Black Voices Wellness in an interview. “I encourage every man over 45 to get annual check ups and screenings for prostate cancer. If I hadn’t, who knows what could have happened. The only reason it was discovered was because of the screening. That’s why I encourage all black men to get regular screenings.”
He is right.
“Proportionately more African American men die of prostate cancer because they are not screened early enough,” George Edmond Smith, M.D. writes in ‘Taking Care of Our Own: A Black American’s Guide to Family Medicine.”
Overall, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed disease in men and second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of deaths in men, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2005, 185,895 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 28,905 men died from it, according to the latest statistics available from the CDC. Symptoms include difficulty with urinating; weak, or interrupted flow of urine and frequent urination, especially at night.
Gossett spoke with BV Wellness about surviving his illnesses and looking toward the future.
When did you discover you were ill?
About two years ago while I started writing the book. There was toxic mold in my home. My pets were dying and I didn’t know why. They were affected first because they were closest to the ground. Then I started to get sick from just sitting on the couch and it prevented me from working. I stayed there long enough for it to really get to me. I was sick but the doctors didn’t know what was wrong.The doctor said, “You really don’t have long to live – about six months.” Fortunately, I went to a Chinese doctor. He looked at me, ran some tests and said, “You have mold and an infection in your system that I haven’t seen in a long time.” I started transfusions and massive antibiotics, which takes all of your resistance away. Slowly and surely I started to come to life.
Eventually, the six months I had to live passed by. Then I wound up with cancer of the kidney. They took one kidney out. I kept on fighting and they found cancer in the prostate. I got over that and slowly but surely I started to come to life and today is the best day of my life.
What happened to the house?
I tore down the house and rebuilt it. I treated the wood, that way the mold would not come back. The mold came from mildew beneath the wall-to-wall carpet so I threw that out. There was a slow leak underneath the house over the last 15 years that caused the mold to develop. I had no idea because I was hardly home.
You always look so strong and vibrant in front of the camera, how do you manage that?
It’s what saved me, I guess. You saw the results of the mold illness when I filmed ‘Jasper’, ‘Texas’ and ‘Lackawanna Blues’. I was getting old real quick. The uphill is when you see me in ‘Why Did I get Married, Too.’ Other than that, I was able to mask it.
So the mold was attacking you for a long period of time?
Yes, I just didn’t know it.
Did you ever feel the effects of prostate cancer?
It was discovered early enough through routine testing for me to get rid of it. I’m 74; I have to keep an eye on things on a daily basis. As we get over 45 and 50, we have to get physicals twice a year. It would help to read some medical journals so we’d have an understanding of how things work. But we need to take care of ourselves because each one of us is sorely needed in this country.
Some men choose not to go for check ups out of fear. How does one convince them to go to the doctor?
Tell him, “If there is fear, there is no faith.”
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