Don Megowan Cause of Death: How the Gentle Giant of Hollywood Lost His Battle with Throat Cancer

Don Megowan was a towering figure in the film industry, both literally and figuratively. He stood at 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighed nearly 300 pounds, making him an imposing presence on screen. He was best known for playing the Gill-man on land in The Creature Walks Among Us, the final part of the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy. He also appeared in many westerns, sci-fi films, and TV shows, often portraying gentle giants or villains. He was admired by his peers and fans for his professionalism, versatility, and charisma. However, behind his successful career, he had a personal struggle that eventually claimed his life. Don Megowan died of throat cancer at age 59 in 1981. How did this happen? What were the signs and symptoms of his illness? And what can we learn from his tragic story?

Early Life and Career

Don Megowan was born on May 24, 1922 in Inglewood, California to Robert and Leila (née Dale) Megowan. His mother Leila worked as a negative cutter for Pathé. His father Robert was a baker and also 6 feet 7 inches tall. Don had two older sisters, Doris and Eileen. All three of their children grew to be over 6 feet tall.

Don was very active in sports, playing baseball, football, and throwing discus. He went to the University of Southern California on a football scholarship before serving in the United States Army during World War II. He won a heavyweight boxing title during his military service.

He started his acting career in 1951, appearing in minor roles in films such as The Mob and On the Loose. He soon caught the attention of directors and producers who were looking for tall and strong actors for their projects. He landed his first major role in 1955 as William Travis in Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. He followed this with roles in The Great Locomotive Chase, The Werewolf, The Creature Walks Among Us, The Creation of the Humanoids, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, The Devil’s Brigade, and Blazing Saddles.

He also starred in the TV series The Beachcomber in 1962 with Cameron Mitchell. He guest starred in various programs, including Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Maverick, Have Gun–Will Travel, The Rifleman, Bonanza, Rawhide, Get Smart, and Fantasy Island.

He was married twice and had two children from his first marriage. His first wife was Betty Eleanor Wright, whom he married in 1947 and divorced in 1962. His second wife was Alva Megowan, whom he married in 1963 and stayed with until his death.

Smoking Habit and Throat Cancer

Don Megowan was a smoker from age 12 to 48. He started smoking when he was a young boy, influenced by his father who also smoked. He continued smoking throughout his life, even after he became aware of the health risks associated with tobacco use.

According to Wikipedia, he smoked up to four packs of cigarettes a day at one point. He tried to quit several times but failed. He finally managed to quit smoking in 1970 after he suffered a heart attack.

However, by then it was too late. The damage to his throat had already been done. He developed throat cancer, a type of cancer that affects the larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), or tonsils.

According to Mayo Clinic, some of the signs and symptoms of throat cancer are:

  • A cough
  • Changes in your voice, such as hoarseness or not speaking clearly
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • A lump or sore that doesn’t heal
  • A sore throat
  • Weight loss

These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it is important to see a doctor if you have any of them.

The exact cause of throat cancer is not known, but some factors that can increase the risk are:

  • Tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Exposure to asbestos or other chemicals

The treatment for throat cancer depends on the stage, location, and type of the cancer. Some of the options are:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor or part of the throat
  • Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells with high-energy beams
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells with drugs
  • Targeted therapy to attack specific features of cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy to boost the body’s immune system to fight cancer

The prognosis for throat cancer varies depending on many factors, such as the stage of the cancer, the overall health of the patient, and the response to treatment. According to Cancer.Net, the five-year survival rate for laryngeal cancer is 60%, for hypopharyngeal cancer is 33%, and for oropharyngeal cancer is 65%.

Final Years and Death

Don Megowan’s throat cancer was diagnosed in the late 1970s. He underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to treat his condition. He also had a tracheostomy, a procedure that creates an opening in the neck to allow air to enter the lungs.

He continued working as an actor until 1979, when he appeared in his last film, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. He also did some voice-over work for commercials and documentaries.

However, his health deteriorated rapidly. His weight dropped from nearly 300 pounds to barely 150. He lost his voice and had difficulty breathing. He suffered from pain and infections.

He died on June 26, 1981 at a hospital in Panorama City, California. He was 59 years old. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.

He was survived by his wife Alva, his son Greg, his daughter Cathy, and his grandchildren.

Legacy and Lessons

Don Megowan was a talented and versatile actor who left a mark on the film industry with his memorable roles. He was respected by his colleagues and loved by his fans. He was a gentle giant who had a warm personality and a good sense of humor.

However, he also had a fatal flaw that cost him his life. He was addicted to smoking, a habit that he could not quit until it was too late. He developed throat cancer, a disease that robbed him of his voice, his health, and his happiness.

His story is a cautionary tale for anyone who smokes or is thinking of smoking. Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the world. It can cause various types of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and other chronic conditions.

The best way to prevent smoking-related diseases is to never start smoking or to quit as soon as possible. Quitting smoking can have immediate and long-term benefits for your health and well-being. It can lower your risk of developing cancer and other diseases, improve your breathing and circulation, enhance your appearance and sense of taste and smell, save you money, and protect your loved ones from secondhand smoke.

If you are a smoker who wants to quit, you are not alone. There are many resources and support available to help you achieve your goal. Some of the options are:

  • Nicotine replacement products, such as patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers, or sprays
  • Prescription medications, such as bupropion or varenicline
  • Behavioral counseling, such as individual or group therapy, telephone or online coaching, or self-help materials
  • Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, hypnosis, or herbal remedies
  • Support groups, such as online forums, social media groups, or local meetings

You may need to try different methods or combinations of methods to find what works best for you. You may also face some challenges or setbacks along the way. But don’t give up. You can do it. You can quit smoking and live a healthier and happier life.

Don Megowan’s cause of death was a tragic consequence of his smoking habit. But his life was also a testament to his talent and passion for acting. He left behind a legacy of films and TV shows that will continue to entertain and inspire generations of viewers.

He also left behind a lesson for us all: Smoking kills. Don’t start or quit today.

Doms Desk

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