He thought he just had the flu.
“It all started with a pain in my back and abdomen,” The Black Eyed Peas member Taboo says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “I was so busy working that I wasn’t worried about it, but I went to the emergency room to get checked out.”
After a barrage of tests, Taboo — who was born Jaime Luis Gomez — was informed that he had stage 2 testicular cancer.
“The very next day I went into surgery to have the ‘mother ship’ removed. But my fight had just begun,” says the recording artist, who was diagnosed in June 2014. “My family and the group were all in shock, but will.i.am instantly reached out to a great doctor who helped me figure out a treatment plan. I was racing against the clock.”
Taboo ultimately was put through 12 weeks of “intense, aggressive” chemotherapy.
“There were times that I wanted to give up, but I became inspired by sports figures who have gone through similar battles. I began channeling my energy into the thing that keeps me alive and spirited: music,” he says. “I wanted to share my story and inspire others like those who had inspired me.”
So, while he chose to keep his diagnosis and treatment quiet until he could show his fans that he’d “made it out the other side stronger,” he began writing lyrics about his cancer battle and hit the recording studio.
“I had chemo brain and kept fading in and out, but my team kept me focused because they knew how important it was,” he says.
For more from Taboo – including how he went on to become a father to a “miracle” baby after his treatment – pick up the Sexiest Man Alive issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Now, Taboo has partnered with the American Cancer Society for a new campaign called The Fight to inspire others battling cancer to maintain a positive outlook and all people to get tested if they see any warning signs.