Cumberland Times-News

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May 5, 2013

Cancer survivor aims to live strong as long as he represents the livestrong man

CUMBERLAND — John “Goddie” Gates, 22, of Cumberland, who is a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, is hoping to help cancer patients overcome their fears and inspire them through his song “Livestrong Man.”

Gates’ dream was to present the song to his hero and the man who helped inspire the song — bicyclist Lance Armstrong.

“Lance wrote to me last spring, said that he watched the YouTube video (of the song), liked it and knew that it would be an inspiration to so many other people out there,” said Gates. “The song is an anthem to inspire other people. It’s a positive way of saying we can do it, don’t let it control you and you can beat this. It’s a small step.”

Gates said he feels blessed that his cancer is in remission.

His advice to cancer patients is, “First off, I would tell them it’s going to be OK and that they can beat it. I would tell them to keep strong and keep the faith. Attitude is important; there will be dark days, just hold onto your faith and you will get to the other side.”

Gates’ cousin, Stephen Heath Gates, came up with the idea for a song and they worked on it together in March 2010 prior to Gates’ bone marrow transplant at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer center in New York City.

The Dream Team, a committee sponsored by the society of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer center that helps make the dreams of adult patients come true, brought Goddie’s dream of recording a song in a real recording studio to fruition.

“The Solan-Kettering Dream Team is an unbelievable organization that literally makes dreams a reality,” said Goddie in the YouTube video. “Through them, I’m doing what I never thought I would do.”

Trustworthy, dependable and persistent are a few words that Stephen uses to describe Goddie.

“He is a stand-up guy,” said Stephen. “If he has an idea, he will follow through with it.”

“At the age of 17, Goddie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After months of intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment, doctors were convinced he was cancer-free. After his first post-treatment CT scan, Goddie’s world was turned upside down, when he learned the cancer had not only returned but was now in his chest and lymph nodes,” according to the YouTube video.

“Once I heard that, it shattered my world,” said Goddie. “I wanted to give up the fight. I told my family that I’m not going to fight it.”

Goddie began to spiral downward while he was a patient for his bone marrow transplant. He would stay in his room with the lights out and wouldn’t let anyone in.

“When Goddie was going through the treatment he was depressed, broken down, stressed out. He didn’t want to be bothered, didn’t want to deal with anything. It was just the end of the world for him,” said Stephen in the video.

Stephen hoped to motivate his cousin with the idea of making a song, and it worked. Goddie was very excited at the prospect and would ask about it every day, according to Stephen.

“He really thought that he had an expiration date on him, I think without it (the song), we wouldn’t be telling this story,” said Stephen in an interview with the Times-News.

Goddie and Stephen are giving out a CD with their song to cancer patients in the hopes of inspiring them.

As for the future, Goddie plans to give back to the cancer community, continue to sing and is working toward graduating in December from the culinary arts program at Allegany College of Maryland. Goddie said that he didn’t think graduating would be a possibility because of his struggle with cancer.

“The feedback on the song has been amazing. I’m so blessed to be from a place where so many people love me like this and support me,” said Goddie.

Goddie is thankful that Stephen inspired him to make music and for his parents, John and Sukh Gates, and his two brothers’ support as well.

Goddie said most cancer commercials use slow music and that he and Stephen wanted to make something more upbeat.

The hip-hop song was produced by Blake Brandes and recording artist KDrew.

The song was recorded in the summer of 2011 in New Jersey and came out on YouTube in April. Goddie wanted to give a special thanks to Brandes and KDrew, who, he said, were very professional, cooperating and welcoming.

The song will be available on iTunes and Rhapsody in the next month or so, according to Goddie.

The YouTube video can be viewed at http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=5HzR7DPnjA4.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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