Rapper Taboo: From Black Eyed Peas star to cancer survivor

Jaime Luis Gomez, aka Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, and a cancer survivor, went through an agonizing series of chemotherapy treatments of 12 weeks of six-hour daily sessions. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2017

Rapper Taboo: From Black Eyed Peas star to cancer survivor

MEXICO CITY: Jimmy Gomez, better known as the rapper Taboo from The 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 got a gut-wrenching diagnosis: he had testicular cancer.
He had more than 100 million record sales to his name and a string of worldwide dance hits like “I Gotta Feeling” and “Where Is the Love?,” but it meant nothing in the face of cancer’s cruel reality, he said in an interview.
At first, he was only able to piece the details together slowly.
“They didn’t tell me what type of cancer I had. They didn’t tell me what stage I was in. They just told me, Mr. Gomez, you have cancer,” said Taboo, 42.
“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 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 grueling series of chemotherapy treatments.
Today, the Los Angeles native is an ambassador for the American Cancer Society and a vocal ally and fundraiser for cancer survivors everywhere.
He spoke to AFP ahead of the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City, which gathered high-level policy makers Tuesday for an annual exchange on fighting the world’s second-leading cause of death.
It was not an easy journey to get there.
First Taboo went through an agonizing series of chemotherapy treatments: 12 weeks of six-hour daily sessions that he describes as “war, torture and a nightmare” rolled into one.
“That was the feeling,” he said.
“I’ve never been to war, but internally, when they’re destroying your insides to kill everything that’s good to kill that one thing that’s bad, which is the tumor, it scarred me psychologically, emotionally, inside and outside.”
The idea that dealing with cancer is a “battle” has come in for criticism lately from some who resent the violence of the analogy and 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’m living, dude. I’m alive. See this face? I can actually smile and say, Look, I beat the f--- out of cancer,” he said, mouthing the end of the expletive.
He spoke to AFP decked out in black, his bald head crowned by a wide-brimmed “zoot suit” hat evocative of his Mexican roots, and sporting turquoise-and-silver jewelry in a nod to his Native American heritage on his mother’s side.
He cited his maternal grandmother as his biggest influence.
“She’s a Shoshone Native American woman who had a warrior instinct. And my warrior instinct kicked in” after he was diagnosed, he said.
But you need both love and fight 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 his biggest hits: “Where Is the Love?“
Last year, as a fundraiser for the Cancer Society, he recorded a song called “The Fight.”
His message today to others is that they can defeat cancer, too.
“I beat it down. And now I’m 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’re not alone. I am one of you and you are one of me. Let’s get charged up for life.”
Maybe the title of his next hit song.

A wellness interlude

The relaxation room at the Pearl Spa. (All images supplied)
Updated 20 September 2018

A wellness interlude

  • The Pearl Spa offers holistic wellness experiences
  • It is themed around the region's pearling heritage

DUBAI: Few things can give you that instant holiday feeling as much as a spa treat. Of course, it helps if it’s within the tranquil beachside setting of the luxe-Arabesque Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. Walking into its sun-drenched lobby bedecked with fresh floral arrangements puts you into relax mode, with the dial being cranked up higher as soon as you enter Pearl Spa.

Themed around the region’s pearling heritage, the spa doesn’t just nod to the gem in its name but also references it in the opulent yet understated design with mother-of-pearl inlays and pearly finishes throughout.

And if the spa’s decor is impressive, the couples’ suite will wow even the most jaded. A proper hotel-suite sized affair, it has a generous living area with sofas, an outdoor courtyard with a bubbling fountain providing the perfect backdrop, and separate treatment rooms and bathrooms. Once holed up in here, anyone could be forgiven for not trying out the rest of the wet facilities, which include a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and a sensory shower.

However, a spa is only as good as its therapists, and in this case they are among the best in town. The signature massage, a 90-minute therapy, combines a variety of strokes and pressures, together with regionally inspired oud, rose and frankincense oil to make for a truly indulgent experience.

The treatment protocol is merely prescriptive, however, as the therapists really take it upon themselves to fix whatever is required — knots were teased out, muscle aches I didn’t know existed eased away, and tensions soothed as the masseuse kneaded, pummeled and stretched, hopping on to the table to maximize the impact of the massage.

I waddled out in an utterly relaxed state, making a mental note that this is one of the best massages anyone can have in Dubai, bar none (and I have tried most).

At the end, herbal teas are served in the private lounge as you are left to ease yourself back into the real world at your own relaxed pace. The quintessentially Four Seasons touch of thoughtfulness punctuates the whole experience, whether it’s in the beauty gear provided in the ladies’ dressing room, or the nuts and dried fruit snacks accompanying the post-treatment snack.

When you combine a superlative treatment such as this with a spa lunch, then it can turn a dusty urban afternoon into a complete retreat like little else can.

Offering a holistic wellness experience, their new spa menu features light and nutritious yet delicious gourmet dishes: Marinated tuna carpaccio with seaweed and cucumber yuzu dressing and sunflower seeds; avocado and Boston lettuce salad with shaved Parmesan and poached apple and perfectly cooked Loch-Fynn salmon with sautéed kale and asparagus; and fresh, mousse-like low-fat mango yoghurt with acai sorbet and granola crumbs. The pre-treatment lunch is usually served in the Pearl Courtyard, but during the hotter months can be taken indoors at the lobby side Shai salon.