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Edward James Olmos reveals he had throat cancer

<i>Frazer Harrison/Getty Images</i><br/>Edward James Olmos attends the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute at the Dolby Theatre on June 9
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Edward James Olmos attends the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute at the Dolby Theatre on June 9

By Dan Heching, CNN

(CNN) — Edward James Olmos is opening up about a recent health struggle, calling it “an experience that changed” him.

“This would be the first time publicly I’ll be coming out and saying it, but I had throat cancer,” Olmos, 76, said on the Mando & Friends podcast on Friday.

“I just finished getting through it. December 20 was my last radiation. The week before, I’d finished my chemo and [for] months and months I was on radiation and chemo as it attacked my throat.”

The “Selena” actor explained he had five doctors advising him ahead of his treatment who warned him, “There’s only one thing we have to tell you: We do not know what you’re gonna sound like” after they were done.

“I said, ‘What?!’” Olmos recalled.

He described the illness as “a very strong disease,” saying doctors had to “shoot” his vocal cords with radiation.

“We’re shooting your vocal cords, we’re shooting your throat; where you eat, where you swallow, where you talk, breathe, everything goes through here,” he said, later adding, “A lot of my friends have passed because of this.”

He said the experience “took a lot” out of him, and he lost 55 pounds and all of his muscle tone.

“There were times in the months that I was undergoing the treatments that the body gives up,” Olmos shared. “And I didn’t want to take my food through my stomach. They wanted to put tubes in and feed me nutrients because I couldn’t swallow. They had to get 2,500 calories into my body every day. That was ridiculous, that was so hard.”

In reflecting on his ordeal, Olmos said on the podcast it “was an experience that changed me, the understanding of how wonderful this life is.”

“I’ve been through some experiences that have gotten me close to death, but that was close,” he added.

Olmos is an actor most known for his Oscar-nominated performance in 1988’s “Stand and Deliver,” which told the real-life story of high school teacher Jaime Escalante, who served as an inspiration to his disenfranchised students. More recently, he was a series regular on “Mayans M.C.” on FX.

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