“Seinfeld” Star Michael Richards Reveals Prostate Cancer Battle: ‘I Would Have Been Dead in Eight Months’ Without Surgery (Exclusive)

The actor who played Kramer in the series is opening up in a new memoir about his life, including that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago

<p>Marcus Ubungen</p> Michael Richards in May, 2024

Marcus Ubungen

Michael Richards in May, 2024

Seinfeld actor Michael Richards, 74, is opening up about a health scare that he says could have been the end for him.

In his upcoming memoir Entrances and Exits(out June 4) he writes about being diagnosed with prostate cancer in the summer of 2018, after a routine checkup showed high PSA levels. He was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer.

Related: Rage Against the Machine's Tim Commerford Reveals 'I Have Prostate Cancer'

"I thought. well, this is my time. I'm ready to go," he tells PEOPLE, of receiving the news. "But then my son came to mind just a few seconds later and I heard myself saying, "I've got a 9-year-old and I'd like to be around for him. Is there any way I can get a little more life going?"

<p>Marcus Ubungen</p> Michael Richards at home with his dog

Marcus Ubungen

Michael Richards at home with his dog

His doctor recommended surgery to remove the entire prostate after the biopsy didn't look good.

"It had to be contained quickly," he says. "I had to go for the full surgery. If I hadn't, I probably would have been dead in about eight months."

Coming face-to-face with his mortality was one of the reasons he decided to release his memoir. He also had plenty of material to work with.

"I had over 40 journals I’d kept over the years and wanted to do a full review of my life," he says. "I’m turning 75, so maybe wanting to do that is something that comes with being my age.” He adds, “I wanted to connect with feelings and memory. I’m surprised at how much I was able to remember.”

Related: Jerry Seinfeld and Kramer Actor Michael Richards Have Rare Reunion 26 Years After Seinfeld Finale

<p>Frederick M. Brown/Getty</p> Michael Richards and Beth Skipp attend the the Cavalia Show on May 14, 2004

Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Michael Richards and Beth Skipp attend the the Cavalia Show on May 14, 2004

Of course, he also covers the night that he upended his career when he began arguing with some hecklers during a stand-up set at the Laugh Factory. He went on a racist tirade against them, calling one of them the N-word.

When footage of the show leaked a few days later, he made a public apology on David Letterman, but then says he decided to leave the spotlight altogether and go into deep self-analysis.

Related: Seinfeld's Michael Richards Says Racist Laugh Factory Rant Made Him Face His Insecurities: 'The Damage Was Inside of Me' (Exclusive)

"I was immediately sorry the moment I said it onstage," Richards says, of that night. He doesn't expect the world to forgive and forget. "I'm not looking for a comeback," he adds.

“The damage was inside of me,” the actor continues. “So I completely stepped away from show business. It was time to disappear and finally pay attention to where all of my anger was coming from. The most I could do for everybody was go home and get my s--- together.”

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The actor has mostly laid low for the past 17 years, reading and studying religion and philosophy and and keeping a close circle of friends, including Jerry Seinfeld, who wrote the foreword to his book.

"[I'm] learning and healing. Healing and learning," he says of his quiet life now, as husband to actress Beth Skipp and dad to their son Antonio. "But life is always an up and a down."

To read more about Michael Richards, pick up the latest copy of PEOPLE on stands Friday.

Entrances and Exits will hit shelves June 4, and is available now for preorder, wherever books are sold.

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