In October 2018, Andy Taylor, a guitarist and founding member of Duran Duran, had just signed a solo record deal when he received news that made his world come crashing down: he had stage 4 prostate cancer.
He started to notice something was off when he was jogging and felt an “arthritic” pain but decided it was probably nothing. Then, he noticed a pair of lumps in his lymph nodes.
“The first thing I thought of was, when was the last time I had a PSA test?,” Taylor, 61, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue. “My father passed away because of prostate. So there was the family history. So I thought this could be, and sure enough.”
He continued, “As harsh as it is, it’s a death sentence. So you sort of walk out of the hospital in a stunned silence, because you could never be prepared for … you’ve got to start from the fact that it’s a slow burn, so it’s not going to take you quickly.”
Since then, he managed to keep the cancer in a dead state with a drug called abiraterone acetate and was making the most out of life with his music.
“Music’s never had a greater value to me,” he says. “One of the things that I learned early was, if you keep your mind active and you’re there and physically active, it really does [make a difference]. You’re carrying this grim reaper of a weight.”
He managed to keep the diagnosis a secret until around April of last year when Duran Duran — which was founded by Taylor, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor in 1980 — was a shoo-in for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“It was the weekend Duran Duran played in Ibiza, and we found out. It was quite ironic, because I wasn’t here,” says the rocker, who currently resides in Ibiza with his wife Tracey Wilson. “I spent most of my time with doctors and in hospitals. And I’m like, ‘OK, we got it. I’ve got to get there.'”
But eventually, his health got in the way — and it was time to tell the band, which he left in 1986 to pursue a solo career before rejoining 2001 for another five-year stint. He did it through a letter, which they partially read during their acceptance speech at the ceremony in November.
“It was probably the first time in my life … The worst hangover, the stupidest night out, you’ve got a flu on the road, but never incapacitated to the point where you had to have a word with yourself,” he recalls.
“In a way, it ended up becoming a massive relief because talking about it publicly, when you’ve been living with something for so long, every conversation you have with people, you’re acting,” he adds.
Since then, he decided that he wanted to spread awareness about getting the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test done in hopes of saving a life. According to Dr. Bilal Siddiqui of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, men between the ages of 55 and 69 should talk to their doctors about getting screened.
“A lot of this has happened as a consequence of not going to the biggest night of my life. Strange irony,” he says, adding that “if I could get a genie out of a bottle and make one wish, it’s that nobody ever has to go through what I went through.”
He adds, “Duran have got a great female audience. Don’t just give him a poke, make him go get a PSA test!”
Now, the guitarist is gearing up for the release of his upcoming solo record Man’s a Wolf to Man, which is set for release in the Spring — and he’s confident he hasn’t made his last.
“[I’m] trying to stay alive and live a life, which I am absolutely not giving up on.”