Local reggae radio legend Rasta Stevie says cancer was no fun, but it allowed him to see the impact he’s had on the world.
“This health journey that I've been through in the past four years has been one of the most amazing transformational experiences in my life,” he said.
Stevie started his reggae-centric radio show, “Heart Beat of Zion,” at Fort Lewis College’s community radio station KDUR in 1995. He’s been on every Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
He said his health journey allowed him to see how many lives he’s touched and how much he means to the people close to him.
“Picture this, you die and everyone comes to your funeral to say nice things about you. But I didn’t have to die and I got to hear it all,” he said.
Stevie said he raised more than $50,000 through a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for his medical bills.
“I didn’t do it for the money,” he said. “My friend said to me, ‘Dude, you have so many people all over the world that love and care about you, and you are cheating them of their opportunity to be involved in your journey to wellness.’”
Fundraisers were held for Stevie locally at 11th Street Station and Animas City Theatre. Stevie said benefits were also held at the Telluride Opera House and in Lake Tahoe, California.
“It was this opportunity for all these people whose lives I’ve touched to actually come up and say something to me,” he said. “I never knew all these kids in Tahoe became ski bums because of me being in the ski movie.”
In 1988, Stevie was featured in the ski film “The Blizzard of Aahhh’s.”
Stevie said the amount of support Durango residents offered him through his experience was incredibly humbling.
“I got to reason with so many people that shared their stories with me, and it was really powerful,” he said.
Speaking to the powerful support that Durango has for helping fellow residents in need, Stevie referenced the recent GoFundMe that raised more than $200,000 for 16-year-old Cyrus Lewis, who was involved in a skiing accident over Thanksgiving weekend.
“The amount of support that people showed online for Cyrus was really amazing to see,” Stevie said.
Rasta Stevie was diagnosed with HPV-caused squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil, a type of oropharyngeal cancer, in 2018.
Stevie said many of the doctors he went to see about his cancer wanted to remove the tumor surgically in a procedure that could have damaged his vocal cords.
“Could you imagine Rasta Stevie without vocal chords? I might as well quit,” he said.
After exploring natural options that fell more in line with Stevie’s Rastafarian lifestyle, he came to the conclusion that he would have to receive radiation treatment to take care of his cancer.
“I left no stone unturned, but radiation was going to be the thing that finished the job,” he said. “But I’m alive, and I did whatever it took to continue to be alive.”
Radiation treatments have had some long-term effects, but he said none of that matters because he’s still alive.
“I don’t have much taste buds, my tongue is totally numb on one side and it’s weird all the time, and my neck’s got some weird things going on,” he said. “But I’ve got my arms, I've got my legs, I’m not damaged.”
Keeping a positive mental attitude was an important part of dealing with cancer, Stevie said.
“I could have just sat at my place and felt terrible and suffered, and rightly so, or I could get up and change the channel,” he said. “I just kept changing my channel. Every time my channel would go into pity, sorrow or fear, I would just change that channel.”
Currently, Stevie is two years post treatment, but he won’t be considered cancer-free until he’s five years post treatment with no issues.
“My doctor won’t stamp my forehead cancer-free for five years, and we’re two years post treatment right now,” Stevie said.
He said he now realizes the amount of impact he has as a public figure, and has already started to work on using his notoriety to bring people together to enjoy music. Stevie has been working with Tico Time River Resort RV Park near Aztec to build it into a premier music festival venue.
“I’m applying 40-plus years in the music industry into producing festivals on the highest level you could ever imagine,” he said. “People in Los Angeles don’t have venues like this, and we have this venue just outside of Durango. It’s the chance of a lifetime, dude.”
Stevie acts as a festival producer at Tico Time to bring together acts and musicians for three of the venue’s festivals.
“In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have thought this would happen, and it’s happening,” he said. “One of the reasons I lived is to do greater works, and this next level of works I’m doing in the music business is far greater than anything I’ve ever done.”