An Unknown Legacy of Casey Kasem -- Supporting Patients in Need

On Father's Day June 15, 2014, the world lost Casey Kasem. I identified with Casey because we were both music lovers, both short and both very friendly. But also, we were both committed to supporting cancer patients in need of help. Casey's career as an entertainment icon is legendary.

I first heard from Casey when his mom was battling widespread cancer. She did not live in LA, where I was heading cancer programs at the American Cancer Society and the Los Angeles Cancer Institute. But Casey's mom had life-threatening challenges with her illness. Casey called, and we talked about his mom's problems. I made suggestions and recommended a university-based oncologist in her hometown who could provide a cutting-edge second opinion. She did better as a result of more advice from an expert. Casey made that possible for his mom.

But then, when we were talking about the stress that patients and caregivers were having when battling cancer, I suggested that Casey work with me to develop an audio cassette that could help navigate patients and their families through brief mental exercises of progressive relaxation and guided imagery to provide a body-mind experience.

Casey arranged for time at the famous gold-record recording studio Ocean Way in Hollywood. After scripting the exercise, I directed Casey (who as an experienced radio personality needed little direction, of course) through the session. The result: a small audio cassette that we gave away for free to patients having stress, anxiety, depression or distress. We studied how much this helped patients, and then together published the results (Stress Relieving Relaxation Audio-Tape for Supportive Care of Cancer Patients, in Progress in Clinical and Biological Research, Advances in Cancer Control: The War on Cancer -- 15 Years of Progress in 1988). Patients used the tape repeatedly rather than medications like Valium or Haldol. They improved their ability to cope and adjust to their life crises. And this is all because of Casey Kasem's commitment to helping people.

Casey's tape never made it to American Top 40. But it made it to the patients' and my top 10! With the cassette, a better quality of life was enjoyed, and without the side effects of drugs. More celebrities should make similar commitments.

Here are Dr. Cary's tips based on Casey's life and activities.

• When you are facing a serious health problem yourself or in your family, seek out advice from friend's or acquaintances, like Casey did with me.
• Seek a second opinion referral to find out about what can be done to help control or cure the health crisis. For advice on finding the second opinion, like Casey did, see my book, Surviving American Medicine, in the chapter on "Dr. Presant's 10 Commandments on Second Opinions."
• Think about how you can personally give back your support, your time or your contributions to help others.
• Look for help as a patient or as a caregiver to face the stress and anxiety of dealing with a life-threatening illness.
• Think about complementary approaches to dealing with stress such as relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga and physical exercise. Discuss these with your physician and get a referral to experts who can guide you in selecting what may give you the best results.

Casey's death was a tragic story of terminal Lewy body dementia (like the dementia of Parkinson's disease) complicated by family strife. But we should not let that sensational story detract from one of Casey's most important legacies. Help your family and help others.