John Illsley on his 15-year cancer battle

John Illsley composed songs for his new album in hospital while undergoing treatment for leukaemia.

The Dire Straits bassist releases his new solo album Testing The Water on Monday, June 16, and reveals that he has been battling leukaemia for years without telling friends or family.

Some of the songs on his new album were written from a hospital bed, where John as successfully treated using stem cells from his sister.

John tells the Mail on Sunday: “I remember sitting in the doctor’s office with my wife and being told that I had cancer. I asked for the bottom line and bluntly the doctor said I probably had 10 years left. I have to say that brought me up quite short.”

Following his 1999 diagnosis, he was referred to a leading stem cell doctor and faced ongoing bouts of chemotherapy. He explained his weight loss to friends by saying he had stopped drinking beer.

Not even Dire Straits bandmate Mark Knopfler knew of Illsley’s cancer battle.

When told in 2008 that his only hope of being cured was to have stem cell treatment, John came clean to his family and discovered his sister Pat was a match. He went for the treatment in 2011 and last month was finally given the all clear.

John goes out on a tour of the UK in September and October in support of the new album. See for details.

Stef wrote close to 5,000 stories during his time as assistant online news editor and later as online news editor between 2014-2016. An accomplished reporter and journalist, Stef has written extensively for a number of UK newspapers and also played bass with UK rock favourites Logan. His favourite bands are Pixies and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Stef left the world of rock'n'roll news behind when he moved to his beloved Canada in 2016, but he started on his next 5000 stories in 2022.