One of Frank Zappa’s last interviews before succumbing to prostate cancer at age 52 two years after diagnosis.

If you have spent anytime on my little ole site here, you might think that I am obsessed with Frank Zappa. Well, I am not. The deal is that we have very little real life stuff to watch that makes you feel, I mean really and gutturally feel, the tragedy that is a man being diagnosed with prostate cancer when it is too late to cure? I venture to say that this type of scenario should not be happening and is preventable with early awareness, and judicial screening and PSA evaluation.

Something struck me while watching this clip. It reminded me of sitting with my brother Rushton in Pensacola, Florida in a Chemotherapy clinic while he was being treated. We talked about a lot. He mentioned his legacy. I remember he was proud of what he had accomplished with his music. It gave him peace. His feeling that way gave me peace.

I asked Rushton, who was a beautiful person and a good person to everyone, if he had changed his view of God. I asked if he had changed anything about his thoughts or if he had contemplated religion in preparation for dying. Rushton was not a religious person per se but I have no doubt he is in heaven. He doesn’t fit the mold and did not cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, but he’d have to be in heaven. So I ask, ” Have you prayed for forgiveness and made amends to be right with God when you die?”

“John, I think God is smarter than that. He knows who I have been, what I’ve done and not done. It would be silly to try to fix things now.” He gave me a resignation type of smile like, ” what the hell, what will be will be.” Rushton is heaven, trust me, some type of loophole exists for people like him.

Anyway, back to Zappa, in the interview he remains recalcitrant to the end. When asked what he’d like to remembered for he says, “I don’t care if I am remembered. Leave that to people like Reagan.” He then says that he was angry that he had had trouble peeing for years and nobody did anything. ” To be told you have cancer and there is nothing that can be done made me angry.”

It was a sad interview to watch. Can you imagine how you would feel it it were you or your father? He was 50, the height of his career and had several children. It was evident in the clip that he was a beaten man. If you have bad health it is not like you can buy your way out of it. The video is poignant.

The Otis Brawley’s of the world need to temper their views and statements to consider the “Zappa” kind of patient. It is the “Zappa patient” that awareness and screenings are trying to find. Yea, I see over and over again that only 4% men die of prostate cancer. Tell that to the 25,000 families of the men that die each year.

Listen carefully to the part about prostate cancer. This was 1993. He said he had voiding problems but his cancer was not detected.  Would a PSA have made a difference?

Updated: 11:33 PM Aug 28, 2010

Doctor outlines treatment for prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is known to have a higher incidence rate in the African-American population.

Posted: 12:00 AM Aug 29, 2010
Reporter: Jennifer Maddox Parks
Email Address:

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Dr. Charles Mendenhall, radiation oncologist with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, updated the Dougherty Rotary Club on possible treatment options for prostate cancer.

ALBANY — Not getting regular blood screenings can turn a treatable condition into a silent killer.

Dr. Charles Mendenhall, a radiation oncologist with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, made an address to the Dougherty Rotary Club Tuesday for the purpose of educating the public on prostate cancer — specifically how the disease is detected in its earlier stages and the treatment options that are available.

The best way of detecting the condition early is through the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. High levels of the antigen, or a level that rises over time, can be an indication of cancer.

“The PSA is the best measurement on how the cancer is behaving,” Mendenhall said.

A PSA level is typically considered high when it gets above four nanograms per milliliter.

After the PSA test, the next thing to consider is the Gleason score, or grade — which measures the aggressiveness of the cancer on a scale of two to 10.

“Eighty percent of the patients I see have a grade-6 cancer,” Mendenhall said.

Before treatment begins, a physician also has to take into account the ethical implications of putting a patient through a procedure from which he or she may not benefit much, Mendenhall said.

“If I have an 80-year-old who has had two strokes, from an ethical standpoint, I may decide I’m not going to treat him,” he said.

The best hope of curing prostate cancer is either through surgery to remove the prostate or radiation therapy.

On radiation therapy, Mendenhall discussed TomoTherapy. Phoebe’s TomoTherapy unit, installed about 18 months ago, allows physicians to use an image-guided approach to map out a specific area of the body in order to administer a more targeted dose of radiation.

“We can map the radiation dose in a 3- to 5-millimeter margin,” Mendenhall explained. “It’s all about treating what you have to treat (and avoiding what you don’t need to treat).”

For prostate cancer treatment, such an approach can allow doctors to better protect other organs in the pelvic region.

“We want to avoid the bladder and the rectum as much as possible,” Mendenhall said.

Brachytherapy, a procedure in which radioactive seeds are implanted through needles using ultrasound for guidance into the prostate where they can irradiate the cancer from within, is also a common method of treating the condition, Mendenhall said.

The survival rate for prostate cancer over a five-year period is 100 percent for localized disease, 100 percent for regional disease and 31 percent for distant (or advanced) disease — numbers that experts say can be misleading.

“Those that are (treated) for prostate cancer and get a recurrence aren’t going to die in five years,” Mendenhall said. “Plus, some of these guys are going to drop dead of a heart attack.”

Incidence rates tend to be higher in the African-American population, which may be an indicator of how common the condition is in Southwest Georgia compared to other regions.

“The incidence rate may be higher here than, say, Leesburg, Pa.,” Mendenhall said.


2 Replies to “One of Frank Zappa’s last interviews before succumbing to prostate cancer at age 52 two years after diagnosis.”

  1. These outcomes are unacceptable and unconcionable in this day and age.
    Currently a young man, on Vancouver Island, is dying because his prostate cancer was diagnosed to late thanks to the long waiting time he needed to see an Urologist. This happens a lot here in Canada courtesy of our health care system!
    To say this makes me angry isn’t enough. It truly pisses me off.
    SO how does one fight this type of unacceptable medical negligence on the part of the government that is so all invasive.
    Please give me an answer


  2. Dr.Mc Hugh,
    I just thought I would let you know I am a member of the website Dweezil Zappa World, I have been since it started. Frank’s son Dweezil runs it and it is a great site.
    When I saw this blog from you, I posted it over there. I know Dweezil read it as I made a typo and he sent me an email letting me know he went into my blog to correct it.
    I just thought you should know your views were shared over there and it is wonderful to me that you use Frank Zappa’s untimely death as a wake up call to the men out there.
    Thank you so much.
    Here is a link to the blog, feel free to sign up over there and perhaps raise more awareness.

    here is my page on there as well.

    Thanks again and take care.


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