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Michael Landon Talks About Life and Death

May 18, 1991 GMT

MALIBU, Calif. (AP) _ Michael Landon says that despite his diagnosis of inoperable and usually fatal cancer ″death’s gonna have to do a lot of fighting to get me.″

″Look, there’s two things that can happen. I can win or I can lose. And I can handle both,″ he said in an interview in the June issue of Life magazine to be published Monday.

The 54-year-old star of ″Bonanza,″ ″Little House on the Prairie″ and ″Highway to Heaven″ was diagnosed in April with cancer of the pancreas and liver.

Only 3 percent of pancreatic cancer patients and 5 percent of liver cancer patients survive more than five years after diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society’s ″Cancer Facts & Figures - 1991.″

Since his diagnosis Landon, a father of nine, has spent his time on the Malibu ranch where he lives with his third wife, Cindy, 34. He said he first tried traditional chemotherapy, but didn’t like it and turned to a mixture of alternative treatments, including an experimental therapy that pits drug- dispensing bubbles of fat against the tumor in his pancreas.

Landon has limited his public statements to an April 8 press conference and an appearance on ″The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.″

In the Life interview, Landon talks about cancer, as well as his troubled childhood, his career in Hollywood and his hopes. Here are excerpts:

On being diagnosed with inoperable cancer:

″I’m not the kind of person who gives up without a fight. If I’m gonna die, death’s gonna have to do a lot of fighting to get me. I’m not just gonna lie down and let it happen.″

On his treatment regimen, which includes diet and vitamins:

″Damn carrots are turning me orange. And every time I eat or drink, I swallow digestive enzymes to replace what the pancreas has stopped producing. And then, once a day, I take a tried-and-true remedy for intestinal irritation - a coffee enema. Yup, I get filled to the rim. Organic coffee, I might add.

″And you know what? The same day I started this new program, the cramps stopped. And they’ve never come back. ... No pain 3/8 I feel great. Crazy, isn’t it? I may be dying and I feel great.″

On his childhood in New Jersey and his mentally ill mother:

″She did crazy things all the time. Like, she kept making dramatic attempts to commit suicide. I’m this little boy and I’d walk into the kitchen and find her with her head in the oven and the gas turned on.

″Life outside the family wasn’t much better. We were one of two Jewish families in a working-class town that had its share of anti-Semites. ... People in passing cars used to shout ‘Jew bastard 3/8 Jew bastard 3/8’

″And then something happened that changed my life completely and forever. One day in gym class, the teacher took us out to the practice field and everybody had a turn throwing this crappy old metal javelin. ... But when it came my turn I threw that javelin the length of the field and into the stands at the other end, at least 30 feet farther than anybody else.″

On his faith in God and his hopes for the future:

″I believe in God, I believe in family, I believe in truth between people, I believe in the power of love. I believe that we really are created in God’s image, that there is God in all of us.

″So I don’t see why I should fear death - and I don’t. I don’t want to die, and I’m going to fight like hell not to, but I’m not afraid to die.