After a bout with throat cancer, the conservative radio host and movie critic is looking forward to being part of the 2016 conversation.
Sometimes the most life-changing events come out of the most ordinary moments.
And so it was when Michael Medved, a nationally syndicated, conservative radio host, was getting his teeth cleaned last December.
The dental hygienist noticed a lump in the back of his throat. The dentist took a look and thought it might be a swollen lymph gland.
Chances are, it’s nothing, he told Medved. But go see an ear, nose and throat guy.
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Medved did, and that doctor did a CT scan right there, with a medical student tagging along. They left, and a little while later, came back in.
“You have cancer,” the doctor told Medved. The student burst into tears.
And Medved, 66, a respected voice of conservative America was, quite suddenly, speechless.
“It was so out of the blue,” Medved said the other day of his stage 3 throat cancer.
After four months of almost daily radiation and weekly chemotherapy treatments, he is cancer-free and — as of April 21 — back on the air at Seattle’s KTTH 770-AM, where his weekday show is broadcast. Medved is syndicated through the Salem Radio Network and reaches almost 5 million listeners a week.
On Medved’s first day back, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came in — the only Seattle media he did before a fundraiser that night. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called in to wish Medved well. So did Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan. (“Paul went on for a while. He is one of the nicest people in politics.”)
All have a stake in the GOP’s showing in the upcoming presidential election — and are surely relieved to have Medved back on the air.
“I worked my whole life to be part of the national conversation,” he said. “And at the start of an election?”
There are those who are sorry to see him return to the airwaves — and told him so. One commenter said, “I wish the cancer had killed you,” a line Medved mentioned more than once as I drove him home from the station the other day.
I didn’t recognize him at first; he’s lost 41 pounds and wears a baseball hat to cover the fact that his full head of hair has turned to fuzz. He’s not allowed to drive because of the medication he’s taking, so he climbed into my car and took in the ukulele-playing, shorts-wearing Barack Obama figure stuck to my dashboard. I picked it up in Hawaii, I told him.
“It’s a conversation starter,” Medved said. Neither of us mentioned it again.
At his Eastside home, Medved’s wife, Diane, had put out a plate of apples and cheese — but not for her husband, who hooked up a feeding machine he carries in a small backpack. His taste buds are “zapped,” he said, and the sides of his mouth sore from the radiation.
He is looking forward to solid food like his wife’s salmon with tarragon and maybe a kosher pizza.
But he’s also hungry to divine the future of the country. The presidential candidates. And the issues, including health care.
Medved is on Sound Path, a supplement of Medicare. Just for the record.
“I’m very impatient with people who say Obamacare has wrecked our medical-care system,” he said. “That’s insulting to doctors and medical staff. It’s operating well, and it’s a system that cared for me.
“My experience will inform everything I talk about from here on out.”
Medved started cancer treatment Jan. 5 and decided to work through it. He only told his producer, Jeremy Steiner, and the general manager of the Bonneville Radio offices in Seattle.
On Jan. 25, when he was invited to speak at The Roanoke Conference, a conservative group, on the Washington coast,his wife drove him, fixed his hair to cover up the parts lost to radiation and waited anxiously while he spoke (with both hands firmly holding the sides of the podium) and signed books.
On their way across the parking lot to their hotel room, Medved fell into a puddle. That was it.
The next Friday, he told the people at the station what was going on, and posted “A Personal Note to My Radio Family” on his website, explaining what was going on. (Within an hour, 25,000 people posted comments.)
Then he signed off for more than two months and faced his cancer. (Colleague David Boze, “a prince of a guy,” filled in the noon to 3 p.m. slot), along with others.
“Had my voice sustained it, I would have tried to keep going longer,” he said.
Asked how his cancer experience changed him, Medved borrowed from a quote often attributed to Coach Vince Lombardi, but that actually came from UCLA Bruins Coach Henry Russell “Red” Sanders: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
“For me, it’s ‘Family isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,’ ” he said. “It just reminds you.”
His wife “is like the sun coming up.” His two daughters and son were loving and attentive. His new daughter-in-law, Richelle, is about to graduate from nursing school, and used all her skills to help him.
“It makes you realize how precious the little things are,” he said. “Waking up in your own bed. Food.”
And there’s plenty to chew on, now that candidates are announcing for 2016 — Medved has counted as many as 20 in the Republican Party alone.
“It’s such a messy race,” Medved said.
He attended Yale Law School with Hillary Rodham Clinton and doesn’t agree with the conservative portrayal of her as a “wicked witch.”
“I just think she’s wrong on the issues. The election should go to the candidate who shows the best path for the country. Not the one who is the biggest bastard,” Medved said of today’s acrimonious political climate. “If it is Hillary versus Jeb, they’re both better than that, and highly capable of arguing on an constructive and patriotic level.”
For now, Medved is back working on his 14th book, “God’s Hand on America: The Case for Divine Providence in U.S. History,” for which his publisher, Random House, gave him an extension.
He has cut back from three or four movie reviews a week to just two.
And he’s back on the air, booking guests like John McCain and Rand Paul.
“It’s the right time for me to come back,” he said. “I have strong feelings about the election. But mostly, I hope this is an uplifting election for the country.”
It is already that for Medved: He is here to see it.