Sir Elton John today reveals how a major infection following surgery for prostate cancer left him "24 hours from death".
The singer, who was in intensive care for two days after suffering complications, said he came round in hospital and prayed: "Please don't let me die – please let me see my kids again."
In a must-read memoir serialised from today in the Daily Mail, Sir Elton, 72, currently on his farewell tour, also lifts the lid on extraordinary episodes from his life including:
* How Hollywood stars Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere almost had a "fist fight" over Princess Diana at a dinner party at his house until his husband David Furnish stopped them;
* How he fell out with Diana after she pulled out of writing the foreword to a book for his Aids Foundation – but they later made up on the day fashion designer Gianni Versace was murdered;
* His fears about singing the 'inappropriate' original lyrics to Candle In the Wind about Marilyn Monroe being found dead naked by mistake at Diana's funeral.
Sir Elton's brush with death came after surgery for prostate cancer in Los Angeles in 2017. Ten days later, while performing in Las Vegas, the singer started to suffer pain.
Doctors discovered it was a rare complication from the operation in which fluid was leaking from his lymph nodes.
For the next two-and-a-half months, the star was forced to go back to hospital to deal with the agonising problem – before doctors cured it by accident.
"A routine colonoscopy shifted the fluid permanently, days before my 70th birthday," said Sir Elton.
He thought everything was back to normal. But soon after, while on tour in South America, he started feeling ill and "couldn't stop shaking". Cutting the tour short, the star returned to the UK and was rushed to hospital after "feeling worse than I ever had in my life".
"I was taken to King Edward VII's Hospital in London, where I had a scan," he said. "I was told that my condition was so serious, the hospital didn't have the equipment to cope with it.
"I had to be moved to the London Clinic. My last memory is of hyperventilating while they were trying to find a vein to give me an injection… By 2.30pm, I was on the operating table, having more lymphatic fluid drained – this time from my diaphragm.
"For two days afterwards, I was 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 realised.
"There were MRI scans and God knows how many other procedures. 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."
After 11 days in hospital the father of two was allowed home and spent seven weeks "recuperating, learning to walk again".
"So I was incredibly lucky – although, I have to say, I didn't feel terribly lucky at the time," he said. "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."
Sir Elton said he had opted for surgery for the prostate cancer rather than a course of radiation and chemotherapy because the latter would have meant dozens of trips to hospital.
Instead, he "just wanted rid of it" and did not like the idea of cancer "hanging over" him, his husband and their two children, Zachary and Elijah, for years to come.