Pop Culture Icon Butch Patrick on Conquering Prostate Cancer
by Jessica Webb
Butch Patrick made a name for himself as a child actor in the 1960s. Through his role as wolf-boy Eddie Munster, the son of a family of monsters in the syndicated television sitcom The Munsters, he has become an American icon. As an adult, however, Butch’s career stalled as he struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol. Then just when he had finally conquered his addictions, he found himself facing yet another life-threatening adversary – prostate cancer.
Butch’s acquaintance with prostate cancer began before his decision to get sober. After a high PSA measurement during a routine checkup and subsequent biopsy, Butch was prepared for the news that he had cancer. In a recent interview with Coping®, Butch admits he was in a dark place at the time. “I had been dealing with addiction for so long that I honestly was not too concerned about dying,” he says. “I had the high rating, I did the biopsy, and I was ready for it to be cancer. I had pretty much accepted that.” However, his biopsy results were negative.
Instructed to have his PSA checked again in a couple of years, Butch followed his doctor’s orders. This time, his PSA was even higher, and a biopsy revealed what he had initially expected. He had prostate cancer. Butch’s diagnosis came after he had completed treatment for drug and alcohol addiction at Oasis Treatment Center in Anaheim, CA. Armed with a new attitude and a positive outlook on life, Butch’s reaction was to fight. “This is not going to kill me. It’s something I’ll fight, and I’ll get better and move on,” Butch says of his reaction to the diagnosis. And that’s exactly what he did.
“This is not going to kill me. It’s something I’ll fight, and I’ll get better and move on.”
Given the choice between radiation and surgery to remove his prostate, Butch chose the da Vinci prostatectomy, a minimally invasive, robotic-assisted surgical procedure that would remove his prostate gland. Having already booked several personal appearances throughout the country, as part of what would be known as Butch Patrick’s Whistle Stop Halloween Tour, he had hoped to postpone the surgery until after the tour ended. However, his cancer was aggressive, and his doctors urged him take care of it immediately. “So I did it, and eleven days after my surgery, I got on a train for a month-long trip,” Butch says. “That was probably the toughest part of the whole deal – getting through the next 30 days, bumping along on a train, taking care of business that I just couldn’t blow off.” After his nationwide tour, Butch claims to be nearly an expert on what not to do after surgery.
Butch’s road to recovery began on his month-long train trip, but it didn’t end there. After learning he had prostate cancer, Butch also found out he was diabetic. “The combination of my age, prostate removal, being diabetic, and being drug and alcohol free, all at the same time, kind of set my whole body into a new realm of existence,” Butch explains. “What I’m dealing with right now is just getting back into sex drive mode,” he continues. “That’s probably the biggest change I’ve noticed. There’s not a lot of get up and go when it comes to sexual desire.”
Although Butch admits that it took a while for him to feel normal again after his treatment, spirituality and a realistic mindset have given him the strength to cope throughout his experience with cancer. “If this is the worst thing that could happen in my life, I’m pretty lucky considering what some people go through,” he admits.
His ability to take direction – a trait he picked up as a child actor – has also contributed to his successful recovery. “I listen to my doctor. I do what he tells me to do, and that’s pretty much it,” says Butch. “‘G.O.D. – good, orderly direction’ is my mantra.”
These days, Butch is cancer free, making personal appearances, and sharing the lessons he’s learned through his life experiences. “For a long time, I was hiding out, and I wasn’t too proud of myself,” he says. “Now, every day I do this, I feel good.”
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You can follow Butch on twitter at twitter.com/BPMunster.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, July/August 2012.