Music

Black Eyed Peas rapper Taboo an unapologetic anti-cancer warrior

Black Eyed Peas rapper Taboo, who had testicular cancer, now raises funds for survivors

Rapper Jaime "Taboo" Gomez from US hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas had money, fame and a multi-platinum career when a strange back pain brought his world crashing down.

The six-time Grammy winner went to the doctor and received a gut-wrenching diagnosis: He had testicular cancer.

He had record sales of more than 100 million to his name and a string of worldwide dance hits such as I Gotta Feeling, but they meant nothing in the face of cancer's cruel reality, the 42-year-old said.

"They did not tell me what type of cancer I had. They did not tell me what stage I was in. They just told me, 'Mr Gomez, you have cancer'," said Taboo.

"My life flashed before my eyes. I thought about my kids, I thought about my wife. Nothing prepares you for the shock of someone telling you that you have that horrible disease."

That was in 2014.

It was only last year that Taboo went public about his struggle with cancer - now in remission after a gruelling series of chemotherapy treatments.

Today, he is an ambassador for the American Cancer Society and a fund-raiser for cancer survivors everywhere.

He gave this interview ahead of the World Cancer Leaders' Summit in Mexico City, which gathered high-level policymakers last Tuesday for an annual exchange on fighting the world's second-leading cause of death.

It was not an easy journey for Taboo to get there.

wHe went through a series of chemotherapy treatments: 12 weeks of six-hour daily sessions he described as "war, torture and a nightmare" rolled into one.

He said: "I have never been to war, but internally, when they are destroying your insides to kill everything that is good to kill that one thing that is bad, which is the tumour, it scarred me psychologically and emotionally, inside and outside."

DEFIANT

The idea that dealing with cancer is a "battle" has come in for criticism lately from some who resent the implication that those suffering from the disease just need to "fight harder".

But Taboo is an unapologetic anti-cancer warrior - he is intensely defiant when he talks about the disease.

"I am living, dude. I am alive. See this face? I can actually smile and say, 'Look, I beat the **** out of cancer,'" he said.

Decked out in black, his bald head crowned by a wide-brimmed "zoot suit" hat evocative of his Mexican roots and sporting jewellery in a nod to his Native American heritage on his mother's side, Taboo cited his maternal grandmother as his biggest influence.

"She is a Shoshone Native American woman who had a warrior instinct. And my warrior instinct kicked in (after I was diagnosed)," he said.

But you also need love to deal with cancer, he added.

At the American Cancer Society, he wants to be an "ambassador of love", he said, breaking into the chorus of one of Black Eyed Peas' biggest hits, Where Is The Love?.

Last year, as a fund-raiser for the Society, he recorded a song called The Fight.

His message today to others is that they can defeat cancer too.

"Now I am going to use this gift of life to give people hope and to say, 'Look, I went down that path too, I was there lying on that bed, you are not alone. I am one of you and you are one of me. Let us get charged up for life.'" - AFP

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