Elton John is opening up about a terrifying health crisis that left him “24 hours from death.”
In an excerpt from his upcoming memoir Me, serialized in the Daily Mail, the 72-year-old rock icon reveals he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017, something he’s kept hidden until now.
In the book, Sir Elton explains that he opted for surgery instead of chemotherapy, which would have sent him back to the hospital “dozens of times,” so he could continue touring.
“But effectively my kids made the decision for me,” he says of his two sons with husband David Furnish, Zachary, 8, and Elijah, 6. “I didn’t like the idea of cancer hanging over me — us — for years to come: I just wanted rid of it.”
After recovering from surgery, he returned to the road. While on tour in South America, however, he began feeling ill, admitting he “couldn’t stop shaking,” leading him to cut the tour short and return to the U.K.
When he arrived, his condition had worsened to the point he was rushed to the hospital, “feeling worse than I ever had in my life.”
As he explains, he had developed a serious infection. “I was told that my condition was so serious, the hospital didn’t have the equipment to cope with it.”
He was then transferred to the London Clinic for further treatment. “My last memory is of hyperventilating while they were trying to find a vein to give me an injection… By 2.30 p.m., I was on the operating table, having more lymphatic fluid drained — this time from my diaphragm.”
He spent the next two days in intensive care. “When I came round, they told me I’d contracted a major infection in South America, and that they were treating it with massive intravenous doses of antibiotics. But the fever came back. They took a sample of the infection… it was much more serious than they’d first realized,” he adds.
“The doctors told David I was 24 hours away from death. If the South American tour had gone on for another day that would have been it: brown bread,” he continues (“brown bread” is Cockney slang for dead).
“So I was incredibly lucky — although, I have to say, I didn’t feel terribly lucky at the time. I lay awake all night, wondering if I was going to die. In the hospital, alone at the dead of night, I’d prayed: Please don’t let me die, please let me see my kids again, please give me a little longer,” writes the singer. “In a strange way, it felt like the time I spent recuperating was the answer to my prayers: if you want more time, you need to learn to live like this, you have to slow down.”
Elton John’s Me will be published on Oct. 15.