John Farnham’s family gives a major health update after the singer had life-saving cancer surgery

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The family of Australian music legend John Farnham said he is ‘progressing well’ and has been moved from intensive care to a general hospital ward.

The 73-year-old required an operation by 26 surgeons over a marathon 12-hour operation to remove a cancerous growth from his mouth in August – which saw doctors forced to move a part of his jaw.

Family say he is ‘unlikely’ to ever perform again – but an update from wife Jill and sons Rob and James encouraged his fans the singer is on the road to recovery having been moved into a general room.

‘That in itself is terrific progress,’ the family said in a statement. 

‘This week John has been transferred into a rehabilitation facility. Each of these steps means things are moving in the right direction and for that we are enormously thankful.’

They also thanked his ‘many thousands’ of fans who created a website to support Farnham called weloveyoujohn.com.au. 

The family of Australian music legend John Farnham said he is ‘progressing well’ in his recovery and has been moved from ICU to a general hospital ward 

Entertainment reporter Peter Ford said there were doubts Farnham would take to the stage again after the death of his dear friend and manager Glenn Wheatley in February this year, but added it was even more unlikely now.

‘Certainly now you have to say there’s even a lesser chance (of him performing),’ he told 6PR on last month. 

Farnham had only discovered he had the cancerous growth in his mouth after his wife Jill insisted on taking him to the doctor for a check up. 

‘The cancer tumour was located in his mouth and it has been successfully removed,’ Mrs Farnham said.

‘There is still a long road of recovery and healing ahead of us, but we know John is up for that task.’

Mr Ford said the first part of his surgery was the removal of his tumour.

‘And then after that was done, almost immediately the reconstructive team moved in because John did have to have, I’m told, a major part of his jaw removed,’ he said. 

Gaynor Wheatley, the widow of Glenn Wheatley, said Farnham’s family only learnt of his cancer a few weeks ago.

‘I think John suffers from that man thing that says ”I’m fine”, and was lucky, and we have Jill to thank to take him to the doctors (where they) found this legion in his mouth which has now been taken out and addressed,’ she told The Today Show.

Farnham's family confirmed he was in a stable condition in the ICU after the massive surgery last month

Farnham’s family confirmed he was in a stable condition in the ICU after the massive surgery last month

JOHN FARNHAM’S ON-AND-OFF SMOKING HABIT 

John Farnham, 73, said he started smoking as a ‘stupid’ 14-year-old

His habit lasted until 1992 after he starred as the lead role in the production of Jesus Christ Superstar 

He told the Herald Sun he quit ‘cold turkey’ but 12 years later in 2004 when he was gifted a box of cigars for Christmas, his smoking habit returned

He officially kicked the habit for good just before his 70th birthday

‘Stupid habit. It was a little easier to quit from cigars, but I’m better off not smoking, I’m a bloody singer for God’s sake,’ he said.

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‘I’m using my lungs. I’ve already noticed the change. I’ve increased my range, I’ve got a bit more to give, I’ve taken a blockage out.’ 

She said there was no complications, and thanked the ‘hero’ surgeons who operated on Farnham.

‘I think at one stage there was 26 surgeons, so they’re our heroes, they’re our rockstars,’ Ms Wheatley said.

She added that Farnham was expected to be ‘looking great’ by Christmas. 

‘There will be a period of time in hospital just recovering from the surgery, and ongoing treatment to ensure we’ve got it all,’ she said. 

The Farnham family confirmed he is now recovering in the ICU, and thanked health workers for their efforts.

‘We are in awe of the incredible teams of health care professionals who have guided us through this very challenging time with such compassion,’ they said.

‘All of you undertook this big job today and gave us a magnificent outcome.

‘To all the surgeons, doctors, nurses and consultants – thank you one and all so very much.’

Mr Ford earlier reported the singer had emerged from surgery on Tuesday evening, after ‘cracking jokes’ with hospital staff prior to the delicate procedure.

He said the lengthy surgery, which lasted from 8am to 7.30pm, pointed to the ‘severity of the situation’ but said Farnham had been in high spirits. 

‘John’s surgery began at 8.00am this morning and was successfully completed at 7.30pm tonight. He has now been transferred to ICU and is in a stable condition,’ his family said in a statement on Tuesday night.

Farnham earlier opened up about his smoking habit, which he says began when he was a ‘stupid’ 14-year-old.

He quit ‘cold turkey’ in 1992 after starring in Jesus Christ Superstar, but picked up the habit again with cigars in 2004.

He officially quit smoking for good just before his 70th birthday

‘Stupid habit. It was a little easier to quit from cigars, but I’m better off not smoking, I’m a bloody singer for God’s sake,’ he told the Herald Sun in 2019.

‘I’m using my lungs. I’ve already noticed the change. I’ve increased my range, I’ve got a bit more to give, I’ve taken a blockage out.’ 

Mr Ford said Farnham was given a ‘wake up call’ by one of his sons who told the singer ‘please stop smoking dad, I don’t want you to die’.

That led to him cutting out cigarettes for good.

‘He was always puffing away, I don’t think he was ever proud of it,’ the reporter said. 

Farnham (pictured in Perth in January) underwent an almost 12-hour surgery to remove a tumour from his mouth on Tuesday

Farnham underwent an almost 12-hour surgery to remove a tumour from his mouth on Tuesday 

Surgeons are confident the operation to remove the cancerous growth will be successful (Pictured: Farnham with Olivia Newton-John in February 2020)

 Surgeons are confident the operation to remove the cancerous growth will be successful (Pictured: Farnham with Olivia Newton-John in February 2020)

Farnham, in a separate statement provided by the family, said a cancer diagnosis was something many people face each day ‘and countless others have walked this path before me’.

‘The one thing I know for sure is that we have the very best specialist health care professionals in Victoria and we can all be grateful for that. I know I am,’ he said.

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The family has requested privacy at this time.

It comes three years after Farnham was hospitalised with a severe kidney infection – which saw him put down cigars for good.

The musician is being supported by his wife Jill and their two adult sons Robert and James (pictured, the Farnham family pose for a photo in 2018)

The musician is being supported by his wife Jill and their two adult sons Robert and James (pictured, the Farnham family pose for a photo in 2018)

The musician’s family issued a statement revealing his cancer battle on Tuesday morning sending shockwaves through the entertainment industry. 

‘We have recently discovered that John has a cancerous growth. He has been admitted to hospital this morning for surgery and ongoing treatment,’ it read. 

Farnham also provided a statement, in which he said cancer diagnosis was something that ‘so many people face every single day’. 

WHO IS JOHN FARNHAM?

John Peter Farnham is a British-born Australian who was born in Dagenham in Essex, England, in July of 1949.

Farnham was a teen pop idol from 1967 until 1979 and has since forged a career as a talented solo artist.

In September 1986, his solo single ‘You’re The Voice’ peaked at No.1 on the Australian singles charts.

His album ‘Whispering Jack’ held the No.1 position for 25 weeks and is the second-highest selling album in Australian history. 

Farnham is one the country’s best-known rock and pop performers and has won 19 ARIA awards. 

He was named Australian of the Year in 1987 and in 1996 an Officer of the Order of Australia. 

Farnham married Jillian Billman, a dancer he met when performing the stage musical in April, 1973. 

The pair share two sons Robert and James and reside in Victoria.

‘The one thing I know for sure is that we have the very best healthcare professionals in Victoria, and we can be grateful for that. I know I am,’ he said.

Ford earlier on Tuesday said Farnham’s family was ‘quietly confident things are going to be fine’ and that surgeons were optimistic all traces of the cancerous growth could be removed. 

‘They don’t want people panicking. His wife is there, his two sons are there with him. The doctors are confident that they’re able to get it,’ he said on Sunrise.

‘What is it, we do now know, the family did not want to specify what type of cancer is is or where on the body it is. Fingers crossed it’ll be a good outcome.’ 

Farnham, best known for his iconic Aussie anthem You’re the Voice, said cancer was something that ‘so many people face every single day’.

A source said the musician was being supported by his wife Jill and two adult sons Robert and James. 

The revelation comes just weeks after the Australian music industry was rocked by the death of Farnham’s long-time friend and collaborator, Olivia Newton-John, following her long battle with breast cancer.

The Farnham family expressed their ‘love and sympathies’ to Newton-John’s family in a statement following her death on August 8.

‘Behind that iconic smile was a tenacious fighter. A beautiful voice and a loyal friend. She will be greatly missed,’ the statement read.

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He was the last person to perform on stage with Newton-John, at the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert held in February 2020.  He performed three songs and a duet with the Grease star  

John, pictured with wife Jillian Billman in 1973, had recently given up his 56-year smoking habit and cut down on alcohol

John, pictured with wife Jillian Billman in 1973, had recently given up his 56-year smoking habit and cut down on alcohol 

Farnham is most well-known for his hit single You're the Voice, which was released in September 1986

Farnham is most well-known for his hit single You’re the Voice, which was released in September 1986

Farnham also lost his long-time friend and manager Glenn Wheatley, 74, in February, who died of complications from Covid-19. 

Farnham’s wife Jillian told Daily Mail Australia at the time that her husband was ‘too unwell’ to publicly discuss the loss of the legendary music producer. 

Wheatley masterminded the rise of Farnham in the early 1980s at a time when the musician was struggling to feed his family. 

Farnham's family revealed the news of the legendary singer's cancer diagnosis on Tuesdaymorning

Farnham’s family revealed the news of the legendary singer’s cancer diagnosis this morning

Farnham sang his way into Australian hearts as a fresh-faced teenager in the 1960s but had faded into near-obscurity before his most famous album Whispering Jack shot him back to the top some 20 years later.

The 1986 album featured one of the nation’s most popular pop music anthems, You’re the Voice, and propelled Farnham to iconic status.

Farnham followed up Whispering Jack with his chart-topping albums Age of Reason (1988) and Chain Reaction (1990). 

His cancer diagnosis is not the first time Farnham has faced a major health battle.

In 2019, he was forced to cancel his Australian tour at the last minute when he was admitted to hospital with a severe kidney infection.

‘I didn’t realise until too late. I’d been feeling uncomfortable. My wife Jill had been telling me to go to the doctor,’ he explained at the time. 

‘I was very unwell there for a while,’ he said, adding that he was ‘good now’ and ‘it gave me a wake-up call to look after myself a bit more’. 

The kidney infection developed after he underwent a surgical procedure three months earlier which had also led to shows being cancelled.

Farnham said he completely overhauled his lifestyle after the health scare, including  by quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol.

After battling the kidney infection, he held a charity concert to support Australia’s farming community during the devastating drought, which raised more than $4.4million.

Farnham was the last person to perform on stage with Olivia Newton-John, at the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert held in February 2020

Farnham was the last person to perform on stage with Olivia Newton-John, at the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert held in February 2020

‘We’re talking about generations of farmers losing their properties or animals because of drought and in some cases losing their lives or hurting themselves,’ he said at the time.

Farnham has been recognised with several major honours and awards, including 1987 Australian of the Year, 1996 Officer of the Order of Australia, and 19 ARIA Awards, including his 2003 induction into the Hall of Fame. 

Farnham was born in 1949 in Dagenham, England, and at age 10 emigrated to Australia with his family, who settled in Melbourne. 

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