In his upcoming book, Howard Stern Comes Again, the Shock Jock admits that in 2016, he got a set of scary test results and spent months sneaking out to doctor’s visits, all without telling his wife!
It wasn’t until he had to undergo surgery that he finally informed Beth about his health crisis.
“In 2016, I had gong for my annual physical. Same doctor I go to all the time. I'm used to him saying, ‘Everything's good . You take really good care of yourself. I wish all my patients were like you.’ This time he said to me, ‘Everything's go—‘ Then he did a double-take at my chart and said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa.’ I said, 'What's whoa, whoa, whoa? You're scaring me,'” writes Stern, 65.
The doctor then told him his white blood cell count was usually low and advised him to see a different doctor at Sloan Kettering.
"The Sloan Kettering doctor did another blood test and my white blood cell count was even lower than last time. This doctor said, ‘Well, there's nothing we need to do right now, but if it gets any lower, we could always give you a round of chemo,’” recalls Stern.
Hearing this, he panicked, but told the doctor not to tell him his diagnosis so he wouldn’t get more scared.
“I'm so paranoid about my health. If I start googling, I'll go into a tailspin,” writes Stern.
The doctor then told him his mercury levels were high, so Stern cut fish out of his diet.
"After a few months my white blood cells went up. I was so relieved that Dr. Agus thought of this. If not for him, I might have been at Sloan Kettering hooked up to a slow drip of chemo and deprived of my Samson-like mane. Certainly I know that losing my hair would not be the worst part of chemo, but just imagine my face with a bald head. Not a pleasant thought,” he writes.
Speaking of why he kept everything from his wife, Stern says: “I didn't want her to worry.”
And while he thought she’d get suspicious when he snuck out to doctor’s appointments, she never did!
"When Dr. Agus suggested going to California, I finally explained everything to Beth. We both figured Dr. Agus was simply being cautious and looking to reassure me,” recalls Stern, whose doctor told him to visit a California doctor to receive a full body scan.
But when he got another checkup, the results were less than positive.
”The kidney specialist looked at the MR, saw the spot, and said, 'You have to get this thing removed. There's a ninety percent chance it's cancer,” the radio show host writes. "So much for peace of mind. Now I was really flipping out. They told me the surgery was a simple procedure. They would make seven incisions in my abdomen. That didn't sound so simple to me. The survival rate for something like this is high when they catch it early. I went ahead and scheduled it right away. I wanted it out of me."
Stern says that while this was all happening, he chose not to bring his issues on air.
“One of the things about being on he radio is, if you mention anything, people start to call in with all sorts of similar stories. ‘Kidney surgery? Oh, yeah my brother went in for that…' And the stories never end well. The person always dies. The power of suggestion is something that overtakes me. I'm very susceptible to this kind of amateurish speculation. I didn't want to hear any of that,” he explains.
Stern battled his health crisis with the help of his wife, kids, and closest loved ones.
"Besides Beth, Robin was one of the few people I told what was going on. I also told my daughters, though not until I had scheduled the surgery. I didn't want to scare them. They were very worried yet so supportive and a tremendous comfort to me,” he says.
Not wanting to miss work, he initially scheduled his surgery in the afternoon so he would do his show in the morning, but at the last minute, the doctor rescheduled and “that's what cause the avalanche of newspaper articles."
"The surgery took a couple hours, and after it was over and I woke up from the anesthesia, the doctor walked in and said, 'The surgery went great. We'll have the results in a few hours,’” he writes. "Those hours were terrifying and moved so slowly. When I'm on the radio, time flies, but in a hospital room every minute felt like an eternity.”
When the doctor finally returned, he had great news: "It was just a tiny little cyst."
"It was nothing. Nothing was wrong with my kidneys,” writes Stern. “The sense of relief was orgasmic, but the thought that I had gone through all of this for nothing really screwed with my head. I was so angry at myself for once again being overly neurotic about my health. I had to stay in the hospital overnight."
Stern says it took him a long time to recover, mostly because he had convinced himself that he was ill, and was forced to think about his mortality.
”I went back in to work Monday morning and every day after, but that surgery knocked me on my ass. It really walloped me. I had seven scars from the incisions, and it took me a full year to get back to feeling normal, to get to the point where I could start moving comfortably,” he writes.
"It wasn't just the pain, it was the fear. I never had any kind of health scare, and I certainly never spent a lot of time thinking about my death. Even now part of me feels that way — like there's no way the world could continue without me — but as you start to get older and your body begins to break down, it does get you thinking about your legacy, what you'll leave behind, what you're proud of,” he continues.
Despite the horror of it all, Stern’s wife went on the Today show to say that the crisis actually brought them together.
“It was rough and we had to hide it. That was the hardest part of all, I think…This was really serious. Thank god it was just a scare. I think something like that really brings a couple, as close as we are, it brought us even closer together. You just cherish all your time together,” she said on Monday, May 13.
Asked if the cancer scare softened her famous husband, Beth said, “Yeah, definitely…I think he has been soft for a while. I just think people are realizing it more and more.”