Elton John has revealed he was secretly diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017, resulting in emergency surgery which led to agonising pain and temporary incontinence following complications.
It’s just one of several bombshells the music legend makes in his new autobiography Me: Elton John Official, which has been serialised in the Daily Mail. From being told months later he may have 24 hours to live after contracting a tropical disease, to opening up about Princess Diana’s funeral for one of the first times – admitting he believes the mourning may have got out of hand in the months that followed – the music legend leaves no stone unturned.
The 72-year-old star revealed he was less shocked than he may have expected when he first heard the word “cancer” from his doctors, and chose to have life-saving surgery over a long course of chemo and radiotherapy.
“They’d caught it early. The oncologist told me I had two options. One was surgery to remove my prostate,” he wrote in his book, according to the news outlet. However, the battle wasn’t over following the procedure, as he admitted the real agony began around 10 days later as he suffered a painful complication.
After arriving in Las Vegas for a show, he noticed the pain was getting worse as the day went on and he was even left completely incontinent on stage. “I’ve worn some ridiculous things onstage in my time, but never a giant nappy,” he reportedly wrote. “I don’t know if you’ve ever stood in front of 4,000 cheering fans, singing ‘Candle In The Wind’ while literally p***ing yourself, but if you haven’t, I can tell you for a fact it’s quite an odd experience.”
He eventually discovered the pain was due to his lymph nodes letting out excess fluid and it was eventually cured by doctors in a routine procedure. However, his troubles weren’t over there, as just months later Elton was rushed to intensive care after contracting a tropical disease from a trip to South America.
“The doctors told David I was 24 hours away from death,” he wrote. “If the South American tour had gone on for another day that would have been it: brown bread. 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.”
Elton admitted he prayed throughout to survive and pull through, for the sake of his sons Elijah and Zachary. Luckily he recovered and was able to continue performing.
Elsewhere in the book, Elton goes on to address his now iconic performance at his close friend Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997. He very rarely speaks about it, and has only watched or listened to the changed lyrics for his hit ‘Candle In The Wind’ once since.
He admitted his deepest fear when performing the altered song was going into autopilot and accidentally singing the original version, so broke his own rule and allowed an autocue to play – aware of the huge importance of getting it right. He pulled it off flawlessly and kept his composure throughout, but admitted he broke down hours later when he joined his husband David and watched the coverage of the crowds watching the hearse pass on TV.
“In the end, I started feeling really uncomfortable with the single’s longevity. Its success meant there was footage of Diana’s funeral week after week on Top Of The Pops — it almost felt like wallowing in her death, as if the mourning for her had got out of hand,” he went on to write in the book. “I really didn’t think that was what Diana would have wanted.
“And I didn’t want to do anything to prolong it any further. So when Oprah Winfrey asked me on her talk show to discuss the funeral, I said no… I’ve always tried to avoid the topic with journalists. It wasn’t that I wanted to forget it — or her. I just wanted life to get back to some semblance of normality.”
Elton’s autobiography Me: Elton John Official Autobiography is published by Macmillan on October 15.