When well-known actor and comedian Gary Busey came to see Dr. Chester Griffiths, a seemingly innocent nosebleed turned out to be something more sinister.
In his recently published 5-star book, Buseyisms – Gary Busey’s Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, Los Angeles actor and comedian Gary Busey fondly recalls with humor and hope, the ups and downs of his life as an entertainer beginning in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Now in his 70’s, Gary is in good health both mentally and physically, but that was not always the case. In Chapter 41 called FAITH, Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him, Gary writes about a particular incident that shook his undying confidence and determination.
“In April of 1997, I was cast in a pilot reboot of an old television show called Hawaii Five-O. On the final day of filming, everything flowed without a hitch until the last scene. My nose started bleeding. The medic on set tried to stop the nosebleed, but after an hour passed and the blood continued to gush, he called the paramedics. When the paramedics arrived, familiar with my work, they took great care of me. After trying multiple techniques to stop the bleeding, including stuffing my nose with cotton, placing a clamp on the bridge of my nose, and wedging gauze under my lip, they finally had to cauterize a spot inside my nose, which seemed to do the trick.”
Gary, 52 at the time, returned to Malibu the following day and everything seemed to be fine. Then his nose began bleeding again. Very badly. “I drove myself to my general doctor expecting a quick fix, but he couldn’t get the bleeding to stop,” he recalls. The doctor said, “I want you to see a great ENT that I know in West LA named Chester Griffiths.”
Completely shocked, Gary was at expert otolaryngologist Dr. Chester F. Griffiths’ office an hour later. Gary recalls, “Dr. Griffiths entered the room with a very positive demeanor. He held the energy of a person who could accomplish anything he set his mind to. His smile, and the sound of his voice, calmed me down immediately and gave me courage. But even he couldn’t get the bleeding to stop.”
Dr. Griffiths said, “We’re going to have to do surgery.” Now.
Gary was rushed to the hospital emergency room where Dr. Griffiths operated on him. “I awoke from the surgery to find out that he had discovered a malignant tumor, almost as big as a golf ball, growing in the left cheek sinus and in the nasal cavity right below my eye and tear duct apparatus. Ironically, after years of cocaine use, it was unrelated,” he says.
Dr. Griffiths told Gary that he had a form of cancer called synovial cell carcinoma in the maxillary sinus. Dr. Griffiths had removed and biopsied part of the tumor, and surgery was scheduled two days later to remove the rest of the cancer.
It was a traumatic time for Gary. “My dad died from an inoperable malignant tumor in his brain at age fifty-five,” he says, almost the same age as he was at the time with a cancer diagnosis.
At that time, it would have been acceptable medical practice to remove the eye and nose to get to the cancer. That was not something that Gary could do. Dr. Griffiths said that he would be able to remove all of the tumor using a new minimally invasive technique called an endoscope-assisted endonasal surgery – essentially removing the tumor through the nose with micro instrumentation and with the assistance of a tiny camera.
“I would be Dr. Griffiths’ first patient using this new technology, but he assured me he could save my face,” Gary remembers. “He didn’t blink when he spoke to me, which gave me confidence.”
Converting his fear to faith, Gary went through the surgery calmly, “I went into surgery knowing, with complete faith, that I had an excellent medical team and a legion of angels supporting me in my time of need. We were going to conquer this together.”
When Gary awoke from surgery, all of the tumor had been removed through his nose, leaving no scars or signs that he had just had brain surgery.
“The surgery had been a complete success, as Dr. Griffiths had assured me it would be. I could go back to life as a healthy man. Dr. Griffiths was a miracle worker. If it hadn’t been for him, my whole face would have been permanently disfigured.”
Since the time of Gary’s surgery, minimally invasive endoscopic endonasal surgery has become the recommended surgical approach for pituitary and other skull base tumors arising in the brain that can be accessed through the nose. Dr. Griffiths, leader in the field, is a founder of Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI)-Santa Monica and PNI-Wilshire (formerly Pacific Eye & Ear Specialists) where he has thriving practices.
For more information, please contact his offices:
Author notes: Quotes taken from Buseyisms – Gary Busey’s Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
Subsequent radiation treatment from another hospital resulted in some facial consequences that were treated though plastic surgery at a different medical practice.
Zara Jethani, MS, MBA, is the marketing director for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute. Her background is in graphic design, molecular genetics research and healthcare marketing.