updated 07/28/2014 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 07/28/2014 AT 2:15 PM ET
“I was a mess. I’ll be quite frank, I was a mess,” Zeta-Jones said.
Zeta-Jones and Douglas spoke before 3,000 doctors at the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies 5th World Congress opening ceremony in New York City on Sunday.
The couple, which recently reconciled after a temporary separation, attended the event together to discuss the benefits of medical research and thanked the doctors who saved Douglas’s life.
“When I’m married to a man who has such a conviction for life he fights to make the wrongs right. For the first time, he was fighting for his life,” Jones, 44, said.
After saying he was misdiagnosed three times, Douglas was told he had throat cancer when he went to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 2010.
“In all seriousness, and in every sense of the word, I’m very fortunate to be here today,” Douglas, 69, told the crowd. He underwent chemotherapy, which caused him to lose 40 lbs., before he was declared cancer free in January 2011. Douglas told the crowd that he began feeling “a lot worse” before he started feeling better, but he was grateful for his recovery.
Zeta-Jones also shared her gratitude for having her husband by her side. “I’m very happy to be here this morning with my husband,” the actress said. “I mean that literally. I’m very happy to be here with my husband.”