Cancer has not halted Ari Gold’s creative output. The pop singer-songwriter, who’s been out since he released his self-titled 2001 debut album (you’re welcome, Troye Sivan!), has been battling the disease for more than seven years. Things took a turn for the worse this past year when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which can only be cured through a successful bone marrow transplant.
Driven by a need to make art even during his darkest days of chemotherapy, treatment, and recovery (he had his bone marrow surgery October 16), Gold started shining a light on his hospital stays by recording his conversations with visiting friends and chosen family. They have included everyone from Laverne Cox and Kevin Aviance to Peppermint, Colman Domingo, and Dwayne Cooper, and they’re now a part of his seven-episode podcast series, A Kiki From the Cancer Ward. (Gold also managed to master a remix album, GoldNation Remix to Freedom, the release of which coincided with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall this past June.)
NewNowNext recently caught up with Gold (who’s been performing as Sir Ari Gold since 2009) just a few hours after he received news that he’s now in remission.
You’re in remission? That’s fantastic! Tell us more.
Based on the preliminary results, there are no leukemia cells in my marrow. That’s pretty much the news I’ve been waiting to hear. I haven’t received any good news since March. It’s been one thing after the next, and plenty of setbacks and side effects that aren’t pleasant. To hear this is pretty unbelievable. I’m still in recovery mode and have months to get myself back to normal strength, but even just hearing the good news gives me a bit of pep in my step, and the way I’m moving these days I need the pep!
I can’t think of many—if any—hospital bedside podcasts. How did yours actually come about?
I knew I would have some amazing people visit whom I love to talk to, and they did, so I just pressed record and worried about the structure and editing later. I tried to give some context for what I was going through, but I let it flow to whatever issues came up, like a “Hot Topics” episode of The View. These interviews were for sure a distraction and way to feel vital and creative. The artist and creator in me won’t lay dormant, and I’m so grateful because it kept me going in even my darkest moments. I like to share stories, and that’s really what these are, like my songs.
There’s a $90,000 GoFundMe campaign to help with your medical and living expenses, and it has raised almost $70,000 so far. Who else has come to your aid?
There have been a lot of people. It’s been surprising. My doctors told me I had three to four months left to live if I didn’t get the transplant. The fans and social media friends, it’s truly been an outpouring, and all of that has been vital. To have that many people praying for my health at the same time is powerful. I have plenty of well-known celebrity friends who showed support in various ways, too. RuPaul actually came to visit me at my apartment, and I was home but in a meeting, so I wasn’t looking at my phone. He took a photo outside of my building and texted it.
Has this experience made you appreciate your chosen family more?
Definitely. My primary caregiver is a friend who’s not a blood relative, so yeah, the importance of my chosen family is not to be underestimated. I think in many ways this has also brought my blood family closer together, and forced us to let go of a lot of baggage. My brother Steven, he was my perfect-match bone marrow donor. Out of 13 million in the database, there wasn’t another perfect match.
Do you have any advice for people going through a similar situation with their health?
I would say a lot of things. First, everyone has to go through their own journey with it, and it’s a nonlinear, bumpy-ass journey. You can’t start treatment until you’re not in a depressed state. You have to get your head correct before you start the physical part of it, and be in the most sober place you can. Also, this hasn’t been my problem, but ask for help. When people show up to help you, say yes. Allow them to help you.
This might be difficult, but I think we need to talk about the most serious, critical aspect of this ordeal: Have you had any hot nurses or doctors?
Yes! I had one hot straight male nurse, and I couldn’t figure out his sexuality until he told me he was married, but he was very sweet and flirtatious. Then I had a gay nurse who was very subservient, and although I felt so vulnerable and powerless, somehow he made me feel I had some kind of mojo and swag. He’d get down on his knees to help me and do things for me. There were some moments where I was like, Ari, calm down, you don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. When you feel that powerless for so long, for someone to make you feel you’re calling the shots in some way is a nice feeling.
Episode 3 of A Kiki From the Cancer Ward is out November 29.