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Cult musician Wilko Johnson, 65, discusses cancer, facing death

02/04/2013 by Corinne Heller

Cult musician Wilko Johnson, a former member of rock group Dr. Feelgood and a "Game of Thrones" actor, says he has not had any "botherations about death," a month after it was revealed he has terminal pancreatic cancer.

The 65-year-old British rocker, also known as Wilko, also says he may also embark on a scheduled farewell tour, which is set to begin on February 5, if he feels up to it.

Johnson revealed his ailment on January 10, via an online message posted by his manager, who added that Johnson "has chosen not to receive any chemotherapy" and "is currently in good spirits, is not yet suffering any physical effects and can expect to enjoy at least another few months of reasonable health and activity."

Johnson recently talked to the Reuters news wire and BBC Radio 4 in his native United Kingdom about his ailment.

"I haven't any botherations about death," he told Reuters in an interview published on February 4. "So far, so good. Happy."

"It makes you feel so alive," he added. "Just walking down the street, man, everything looks really intense. Any little thing you look at, it almost gives you a kind of childlike consciousness. I'm a miserable so-and-so. I suffer from depression and everything ... but all that stuff whatever it was I used to worry about - it doesn't matter. What's gone, what is and what will be, do not matter."

Johnson told BBC Radio 4 in a January 25 interview that he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer late last year.

"I noticed symptoms earlier in the year, a few months ago," he said. "There's this lump in my stomach. I treated it by ignoring it and hoping it'll go away. Anyway, when I went in for the diagnosis, and the doctor told me you've got cancer,' and it was quite plain it was an inoperable thing, that there was nothing they could do."

"We walked out of there and I felt an elation of spirit," he added. "You're walking along and suddenly you're vividly alive. Walking along and you're now looking at the trees and the sky and everything and just, 'Woah.' I mean, I am actually a miserable person. I've spent most of my life moping in depressions and things. But this is all lifted."

FAREWELL TOUR

Johnson recently performed in Japan. His manager had said that after his trip, he planned to complete a new CD, "make a short tour of France, then give a series of farewell gigs in the UK." Johnson is booked to perform at several venues in France and the United Kingdom between February 5 and March 16. His UK tour dates are sold out.

"This position I'm in is so strange," the rocker told BBC Radio 4 in a January 25 interview. "I do feel fit but I know death is upon me. I'm not hoping for a miracle cure or anything. I just hope it spares me long enough to do these gigs. Then I'll be a happy man."

Johnson says he will perform at his UK and France concerts if his health allows it.

" I'm certainly not going on stage if I'm sick," he told BBC Radio 4. "If the cancer kicks in before that, then I can't go on stage. I'm not going to go on stage looking ill -- I don't want to present a sorry spectacle (laughs)."

When asked about making his concert series a "farewell tour," Johnson said: "I've got no choice about that. I can't go on singing 'I Did It My Way' for another five years or something. But then again, I never did do it my way, you know? I've just always just drifted."

"I am a feather for each wind that blows," he said. "And the wind's blowing me this way now and actually, you sit and think, 'Well, why didn't I work this out before?' Man, just the moment you're in matters. That worrying about the future or regretting the pas is just such a foolish waste of time. Of course, we can't always be threatened with imminent death, but it probably takes that to knock a bit of sense into our heads."

Johnson rose to fame as the lead guitarist of the UK rock group Dr. Feelgood in the 1970s and then began a solo career. He made his acting debut in 2011 as mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne on the HBO fantasy series "Game of Thrones."

Johnson's wife and childhood sweetheart, Irene Knight, died from cancer in August 2004. Johnson, who was with her for 40 years, helped maintain a memorial and fundraising website for her. They had two sons, Matthew and Simon, who is also a musician.

"I love her and still miss her tremendously," Johnson told BBC Radio 4 about his late wife. "I've had to accept [her death] and that was probably the hardest thing I've had to accept in my whole life, was that she's gone. I'm still prone to burst into tears thinking about her but I've never come anywhere near that thinking about myself."

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