Wilko Johnson

Eamonn McCormack/WireImage

Game of Thrones actor Wilko Johnson is facing his final days with dignity, humor and grace.

Earlier this month, the former Dr. Feelgood guitarist revealed that he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and that he's opted to forgo chemotherapy.

Now, in a candid and poignant interview with BBC Radio 4's Front Row program, he speaks openly about learning of his prognosis, coming to terms with the twilight of his days and just how—illness, be damned—he plans to keep on rocking until the very end. (Better believe it: He's not calling off his tour, no siree.)

"I noticed the symptoms a few months ago—there was this lump in my stomach," the 65-year-old musician-actor tells the program. "I treated it by ignoring it and hoping it would go away."

When he finally underwent testing, he says that "the doctor told me, 'You've got cancer.' It was quite plain it was an inoperable thing, there was nothing they could do."

Doctors have given him nine or 10 months to live, and he swiftly opted not to undergo chemotherapy. Yet, instead of plunging into a deep bout of depression—something he says he's been prone to all this life—a remarkable, unexpected thing happened.

"We walked out of there and I felt an elation of spirit," he reveals. "You're walking along and suddenly you're vividly alive. You're looking at the trees and the sky and everything and it's just, 'Whoah.'"

The renewed outlook took even Johnson by surprise. "I am actually a miserable person," he explains. "I've spent most of my life moping in depressions and things, but this has all lifted."

He's certainly not letting his illness halt any of this plans: He's still scheduled to play several shows in France next month, and will wrap up his farewell tour in March with stops in London and Glasgow, among several places.

"I'm not hoping for a miracle cure or anything," he says. "I just hope it spares me long enough to do these gigs—then I'll be a happy man."

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