Artist News

Wilko Johnson has major cancer op

By | Published on Thursday 1 May 2014

Wilko Johnson

Rock icon Wilko Johnson yesterday had a major operation to treat the pancreatic cancer with which he was first diagnosed in late 2012. His doctors believed at the time that the disease was inoperable, and estimated that he had only ten months to live, and perhaps a year if he received chemotherapy, which he declined.

Having apparently resigned himself to an October 2013 “deadline” (in his own words) and played a series of farewell live dates last year, the one-time Dr Feelgood guitarist says it was discovered recently that the tumour was of a rare, slow-growing kind, and not as aggressive as doctors first thought.

Speaking to Tony Parsons in GQ Magazine on the day of the reportedly unprecedented procedure, which saw doctors remove his entire pancreas, and additionally his spleen, and parts of his stomach and small and large intestines, Johnson said: “October had come and gone, and a friend of mine – who is both a photographer and a cancer doctor – became curious as to why I wasn’t dead. And why I wasn’t even sick”.

On dealing with his new, more optimistic prognosis, he added: “It’s unreal to me. I’m going to have to readjust my mind as well as my body. My reaction to the diagnosis of terminal cancer was euphoria. The doctor was sitting there drawing on his diagram – yes, you have this mass and unfortunately we can’t operate on it. You’ve got cancer. You’re going to die. I was absolutely calm. Not a flutter. And he gave me a few more details and I sat there nodding. And when I walked home – it was January, a beautiful winter’s day – I remember looking up at the trees against the sky and feeling this rush – I’m alive. It was so intense!”

And: “Walking along in a reverie – I can’t remember such joy in existing since my time of youth. By the time I got home I was high – to the extent that I wondered if it was some kind of shock reaction, that in a couple of hours I was going to come crashing down. And I didn’t. It just carried on like that. I never Googled pancreatic cancer. I didn’t want to struggle against it. I didn’t want to fight it. I never clung to false hopes. I didn’t want to ruin my last few months of life. I just felt – I’m alive, I’m alive. Death, where is thy sting?”

It was revealed yesterday via a statement on Johnson’s site that all of his forthcoming shows have been cancelled while he recovers from the treatment.