Willie Garson is dead at the age of 57. The actor, best known for his role in Sex and the City, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, People confirmed, and died on Tuesday following “a short illness.”
Garson’s son Nathen shared a heart-filled tribute to his father on Instagram. “I’m so glad you got to share all your adventures with me and were able to accomplish so much. I’m so proud of you,” Nathen wrote alongside a photo and video carousel of his dad. “I will always love you, but I think it’s time for you to go on an adventure of your own. You’ll always be with me. Love you more than you will ever know and I’m glad you can be at peace now…I’m glad you shared your love with me. I’ll never forget it or lose it.”
A number of Garson’s friends and colleagues also shared statements and posts mourning his loss. On Twitter, SATC co-star Cynthia Nixon described Garson as “endlessly funny on-screen and in real life” and “a source of light, friendship and show business lore.” Mario Cantone, who played Garson’s husband on-screen, said he “couldn’t have had a more brilliant TV partner” in an Instagram post. “Taken away from all of us way soon. You were a gift from the gods sweet Willie,” he wrote. SATC actor Jason Lewis told People, “There is a little less joy in the world and it’s a bit grayer with the light that was Willie Garson having gone out.”
Pancreatic cancer tends to be a particularly deadly form of cancer because it is difficult to catch early and often spreads quickly, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains. The symptoms can be vague, such as abdominal or back pain, fatigue, and weight loss. And by the time they appear, the cancer has usually grown large or spread to other parts of the body.
In addition, experts don’t have great ways to detect pancreatic cancer early on. Doctors can’t feel the pancreas during routine physical exams, and currently, no large medical organizations recommend routine screening for pancreatic cancer given that no tests have been found to lower the risk of dying from the disease, the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains. (There are genetic tests and newer screening exams for people with a strong family history of the disease, the ACS says.)
Treatment options for pancreatic may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or targeted drug therapy. But because it is usually diagnosed so late, it is hard to treat successfully, the ACS says. While the 5-year relative survival rate is 39% when the cancer is detected while still local to the pancreas, that rate falls to 13% if the cancer is detected once it has spread to a regional area of the body (such as nearby lymph nodes), and 3% if the cancer was found in distant parts of the body (like the lungs), according to the ACS.
It is not known when Garson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but Garson was ill during filming for a SATC reboot this summer, according to Michael Patrick King, executive producer on the series. King told People that the actor brought “his spirit and his dedication to his craft” to the set every day nonetheless. “He was there—giving us his all—even while he was sick,” King said. “His multitude of gifts as an actor and person will be missed by everyone. In this sad, dark moment we are comforted by our memory of his joy and light.”