Sir Elton John was just '24 hours from death' after prostate cancer diagnosis
The singer, 72, was diagnosed in 2017 and opted for surgery rather than chemotherapy because he did not want the disease "hanging over" his family.
Sir Elton, writing in his memoir Me, serialised in the Daily Mail, said the surgery in Los Angeles was a "complete success" but he was later "24 hours from death" after contracting an infection in South America.
He spent 11 days in a London hospital after lying awake at 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" he wrote.
"In a strange way, it felt like the time I spent recuperating was the answer to my prayers: if you want more time, you need to learn to live like this, you have to slow down.
"It was like being shown a different life, a life I realised I loved more than being on the road. Music was the most wonderful thing, but it still didn't sound as good as Zachary chattering about what had happened at Cubs or football practice.
"Any lingering doubts about retiring from touring just evaporated."
Sir Elton, who is currently on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road, also revealed in his book he fell out with Diana, Princess of Wales, after she backed out of an agreement to write the foreword to a book for his Aids foundations.
They reconciled on the day fashion designer Gianni Versace was murdered.
And he told how Hollywood actors Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere almost came to blows over Diana at a dinner party held at his house before Mr Furnish intervened.