Speaks Out about His Fight with Testicular Cancer
by Kaylene Chadwell
Born Jimmy Luis Gomez, Taboo is best known as the longhaired rapper/dancer from the multiplatinum pop group The Black Eyed Peas. With more than 75 million records sold – not to mention six Grammy Awards – The Black Eyed Peas are one of the world’s best-selling pop groups. Along with will.i.am, Fergie, and apl.de.ap, Taboo has contributed to pop hits like “Boom Boom Pow,” “Where Is the Love?” and “I Gotta Feeling.”
In 2006, Taboo broke his tailbone after falling onstage during a performance. After that incident, he began having what he calls “crazy back pains.” But, chalking it up to his tailbone not healing properly, he didn’t really think anything of it. “The pain started getting stronger and stronger every year,” Taboo admits in a recent interview with Coping, “but I never went to a doctor to see what it was.”
Then one night in June 2014, upon returning home from a gig, the pain became so severe that Taboo couldn’t take it any longer. His wife insisted he go to the hospital. After an MRI, CAT scans, and blood work, Taboo was told the next morning that he had stage II testicular cancer. He says it had spread from his right testicle to two lymph nodes in his spine. The years of pain that he had attributed to his broken tailbone was actually caused by his growing tumor.
Just one day later, Taboo had surgery to remove the cancerous testicle, and then he began chemotherapy a few days after that. “Everything was back to back,” Taboo explains. “There was no time to react. We just had to go with it.”
For the next twelve weeks, Taboo underwent chemotherapy five days a week. When asked about the hardest challenge he faced during his cancer experience, Taboo says it was the chemotherapy. It left him in excruciating pain and unable to sleep. He admits, “There were moments when I wanted to give up.”
I’m a warrior. I’m a champion. I’m a Fighter. I’m not givin’ in.– Taboo, “The Fight”
But what hurt even more than the pain was not being able to be with his kids like he wanted to. He says, “When I was doing chemotherapy, there were times when I’d be tired and I wasn’t able to do things like run in the backyard with my kids or play with them. And I’m a very affectionate father. I love to be with my kids.”
More From Our Conversation with Taboo
Coping: Has your outlook on life changed since your cancer diagnosis?
Taboo: I was never as conscientious about putting my health before my career. I was gung-ho career driven. I still have that inside of me, but I’m making sure that my health comes before anything because it’s important for me to be there for my family. I have a long life to live, so I’m not going to jeopardize my health for anything.
Coping: What advice would you give our readers who are facing cancer?
Taboo: You’re not alone – that’s one of the most important things. A lot of times I felt alone during chemotherapy, even if there was someone in the room. But it is a community of people that go through it. You’re not alone.
Taboo, who has three sons (Joshua, Jimmy, and Journey), was also told he may not be able to father another child after chemotherapy. Although he and his wife, Jaymie, visited a fertility doctor and banked his sperm before he started treatment, they later decided, “If it happens, it was meant to be; if not, we’re blessed to have [the boys].” Well, it must have been meant to be because, in 2015, the couple learned that they were going to have another child, a girl they named Jett Juliana. Taboo calls her his “miracle baby.”
Now cancer-free, Taboo has checkups every three months and is diligently looking after his health. He has also become an ambassador for the American Cancer Society, using his voice to raise awareness and to inspire other cancer survivors. In November, he released a new single, “The Fight,” as an inspirational anthem for cancer survivors, and is donating the proceeds to the ACS to support cancer research and free patient service programs.
Taboo explains, “I want to be the person that says, ‘We’re not going to curl up into a ball. We’re going to get up and fight. We’re going to survive this. We’re not going to let this cancer beat us.’ That’s ultimately what I want with this song, that sense of encouragement, that sense of hope and motivation that you can get through anything.”
The official video for his song “The Fight” is set to be released this year, along with a new Black Eyed Peas album. Plus, Taboo plans to keep working as an ACS Ambassador. As of now, 2017 looks to be a busy year for the Grammy-winning rapper. But don’t worry, he says, “I’m busy. It doesn’t stop. But I’m understanding my health comes before everything. I won’t go full speed ahead and neglect my health.”
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2017.