‘Seinfeld’ Star Michael Richards Opens Up About Secret Cancer Treatment and Surgery

Former Seinfeld star Michael Richards has been out of the spotlight in recent years after the series ended. While he attempted several new projects and an ill-fated try at stand-up comedy that ended in national disgrace, now Richards is making it clear that he's not making a comeback and he's enjoying life a little more now after battling prostate cancer.

In Summer 2018, Richard was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer. As he details in his upcoming memoir, Entrances and Exits, he immediately thought he was a goner. He echoed similar feelings in a chat with PEOPLE.

"I thought, 'Well, this is my time. I'm ready to go,'" he tells the outlet. "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?'"

On the recommendation of his doctor, he had the entire prostate removed to avoid any nastiness predicted by the biopsy. "It had to be contained quickly," he tells PEOPLE. "I had to go for the full surgery. If I hadn't, I probably would have been dead in about eight months.

The diagnosis and his advancing age were also the fuel behind writing his memoirs, pulled from over 40 journals he'd kept from across the years. "I'm turning 75, so maybe wanting to do that is something that comes with being my age," Richards said. "I wanted to connect with feelings and memory. I'm surprised at how much I was able to remember."

He also addressed his controversial racist tirade after being heckled on stage at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. His comments went viral before viral was a thing, taking three days to spread before Richards made an apology on The Late Show With David Letterman in one of the more awkward pieces of television history.

"I was immediately sorry the moment I said it onstage...The damage was inside of me," Richards said. "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-t together."

Richards stresses that he's "not looking for a comeback" and doesn't expect people to just up and forgive him. He's still close friends with Jerry Seinfeld, and has enjoyed a quiet life away from people for 17 years with his wife, actress Beth Skipp, and their son, Antonio, 9.