Wilko Johnson: “If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that you never know what’s going to happen”
Former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson has said he has been “cured” of the terminal pancreatic cancer with which he was diagnosed in 2012.
The 67-year-old was initially given 10 months to live after rejecting chemotherapy, but had radical surgery to remove the tumour earlier this year.
“It was an 11-hour operation,” he said at the Q Awards in London.
“This tumour weighed 3kg – that’s the size of a baby,” he continued. “Anyway, they got it all. They cured me.”
The guitarist went on his “farewell tour” in 2013 and recorded an album with The Who’s Roger Daltrey.
“I thought that was going to be the last thing I ever did,” he told BBC News entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson after the ceremony on Wednesday.
‘Calmly accepted’ fate
Then, at the end of last year, a doctor got in touch and said “something strange” was going on because he was still alive.
Johnson went to see a cancer specialist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and it was discovered that he had a rare form of tumour. He then had the surgery in April.
Wilko Johnson tells the BBC’s Colin Paterson he was told he would die
After the initial diagnosis, he was “absolutely convinced that this thing would kill me,” Johnson said. “I accepted it. I didn’t lose a minute’s sleep about that.”
The musician said he had spent a year “calmly accepting the idea that I was going to die”.
He said: “I decided that was the way to deal with it – not to curse it or fight it or anything like that. Just try and enjoy the time left, which I’d done.
“In order to do that, you have to accept, yes you’re going to die, which in itself was quite an experience because it gives you a whole different way of looking at things.
“And then for someone to come up and say ‘We can fix it’… When they first said they could operate, I was thinking, ‘What are they saying? They may be offering me two or three more months life?’
“But no they weren’t, they were saying they could get rid of the tumour, and that’s what they did. And it’s gone. And I don’t have cancer.
“It’s so weird and so strange that it’s kind of hard to come to terms with it in my mind. Now, I’m spending my time gradually coming to terms with the idea that my death is not imminent, that I am going to live on.”
He said he was still recovering from the operation. When asked what he would do next, he replied: “I don’t know really.”
Johnson’s declaration came as he accepted the Icon Award at the Grosvenor House ceremony on Wednesday.
Johnson’s operation also involved the removal of his pancreas, spleen part of his stomach, small and large intestines and the removal and reconstruction of blood vessels relating to the liver.