Hours after Ben Stiller first spoke publicly (with Howard Stern) about having battled prostate cancer between June and September of 2014, he’s published a piece on Medium about the experience, detailing the surreality of the diagnosis, and then focusing mostly on how a certain non-required test saved his life. He begins:
My urologist segued from talking about how inconvenient it was picking his daughter up at school that morning to dropping a cancer diagnosis on me without missing a beat. Two weeks earlier, I didn’t even have an urologist.
The piece gives a vivid portrayal of what the realization feels like, stating that the sudden derealization so often depicted onscreen isn’t just a cinematic cliché. “His voice literally faded out like every movie or TV show about a guy being told he had cancer…” he says, continuing to describe his doctors appointment where he got his diagnosis. “A classic Walter White moment, except I was me, and no one was filming anything at all.”
Echoing what he said to Stern, Stiller states here that he’s opening up about his experience to spread awareness about the PSA test that he claims saved his life; it wasn’t a necessary test, but his internist administered it, and thereby caught the disease (which is treatable when caught early, but quite deadly when it isn’t) in time. He emphasizes:
If [my doctor] had waited, as the American Cancer Society recommends, until I was 50, I would not have known I had a growing tumor until two years after I got treated. If he had followed the US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, I would have never gotten tested at all, and not have known I had cancer until it was way too late to treat successfully.
He details having gone in over a series the course of a year-and-a-half for the continued test, which ultimately revealed suspiciously rising Prostate Specific Antigen numbers, and led Stiller’s internist to send him to a urologist. “While I don’t recommend it for fun, amazingly some don’t recommend it at all,” he writes, noting the reasons some (including the US Preventative Services Task Force) have criticized the test for people under 50: predominantly because its results aren’t absolute, and so it can lead people who don’t need to get MRIs and more invasive procedures to do so. However, Stiller questions the validity of criticisms, given that he might not be here if it hadn’t been for that test.
Watch Stiller’s Howard Stern interview: