Ex-Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown is being treated for bladder cancer.
The former MP for Yeovil told Somerset Live that he had been diagnosed three weeks ago and while the outcome was “unpredictable” he had “every confidence” in the care he was getting at the Somerset town’s hospital.
The ex-marine commando led the party between 1988 and 1999, during which it became a growing force in UK politics.
“I’ve fought a lot of battles in my life,” he told the website.
“This time I am lucky enough to have the magnificent help of our local hospital, my friends and family, and that gives me great confidence”.
The longest serving leader of the Lib Dems in its history, the 77-year old peer remains an influential figure within the party.
He was a strong supporter of Nick Clegg’s controversial decision to take the party into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.
Prior to entering Parliament in 1983, he served as a Royal Marine and in the intelligence services.
After standing down as an MP in 2001, he served for four years as the United Nations’ high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A Lib Dem spokesman said the peer had told colleagues about his condition two weeks ago.
“We wish him a speedy recovery and know that he will fight this with the vigour of a person 40 years younger.”