Russell Watson is "so grateful" to have survived two brain tumours.
The 56-year-old tenor - who is now married to Louise Harris but has daughters Hannah and Rebecca with ex-wife Helen - was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour just before his 40th birthday but a second one the following year led to a brain haemorrhage, and he has now reflected that the ordeal "changed everything" for him as he spends life on his Cheshire farm.
He told The Sunday Mirror Notebook magazine: "Yes, it fundamentally changed everything. Even today, I will walk out onto the farm in the morning and think, how on earth did I get here, from the back streets of Salford? I feel incredibly grateful for how I survived everything to still be here today. That feeling is compounded by what I went through with my illness. When I first got the news of my tumour I just thought, 'Well, I’ve had it. That’s it, it’s all over.' All I could think about was how my wife and daughters would manage without me."
The 'Someone Like You' singer went on to recall that even though his children were "quite young" at the time, they still understood the situation to a degree and would "protect" him from intrusive members of the public.
He added: "My girls were quite young at the time. Hannah was six and Rebecca was 12, so Rebecca understood a bit more about the seriousness of it all. Hannah just said, “But you won’t die, Daddy, will you?” Honestly, they were incredible and it’s something that will stay with me forever. I wouldn’t have made it through without them.
"My bond with my children was intensified. They saw me go from a 6ft lump to a broken man. So they became my protectors. Whenever we went out and people approached me, the kids would move in straight away and say, 'What do you want with my dad?'
Meanwhile, Russell - who still "has to take specific medication every day" more than a decade on from his illnesses - went on to recall performing for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip in the years before her death in 2022 and described the moment as a "career highlight" because it had been his "dream" to met the longest-reigning monarch.
He said: "I was very fortunate to perform for Her Majesty and the Duke, and I was also an ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Fellowship. The Queen was a great influence on me growing up – wherever she went, people respected her, and she did so much for the country and the world. So, as a kid, my dream was to meet the Queen. When I did, years later, it was one of my career highlights. I will always remember her smile."