IF YOU GO

What: Chasing My Dreams Benefit Show

When: Doors open at 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Veterans of Foreign Wars, 5513 U.S. Highway 64

Price: $10. Some of the proceeds go to benefit the Leukemia Foundation

FARMINGTON — When Patrik Sullivan was 9 years old, he watched his brother die of chronic myeloid leukemia.

Then, in 2009, nine years after his brother's death, Sullivan received the same diagnosis. Immediately, he remembered going to the hospital so his brother could be treated.

"That was the first thing I thought about," Sullivan said.

Patrik Sullivan was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, nine years after his brother died from cancer. He continues to do what he loves -- create music.
Patrik Sullivan was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, nine years after his brother died from cancer. He continues to do what he loves -- create music. Sullivan uses his music to spread awareness about cancer and the importance of getting tested. (Courtesy of Patrik Sullivan)

But Sullivan was determined to continue doing what he loved -- creating music.

"I never gave up on my music," the 22-year-old singer from Rio Rancho said.

On Saturday, Sullivan, whose stage name is Lil Pat, will be performing at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Farmington. The proceeds from the event will go to the Leukemia Foundation.

Sullivan started feeling fatigued and tired when he was 16. It took him more than a year to be diagnosed. In July 2009, Sullivan went to the doctor, who took a bone marrow sample from his hip bone. When the results of the sample came back, Sullivan learned he had cancer.

"It was a pretty surreal experience," he said.

Even the doctors were surprised. Until then, no one knew chronic myeloid leukemia could be genetic. The brothers' cases weren't only unusual because they were related. Chronic myeloid leukemia tends to occur in people more than 60 years old, but both of the brothers contracted it before they reached their 18th birthdays. And their grandfather had also died of chronic myeloid leukemia.

After Sullivan's diagnosis, doctors tried to get his brother's body exhumed from a Texas cemetery so they could study the brothers' DNA.However, in the end, the body was not exhumed.

Sullivan said that doctors were lucky to catch the cancer when they did. He remembered what his brother had gone through and thought he'd have to endure the same tests. But treatment options had improved significantly since his brother's death. Back then, the cancer was untreatable. Sullivan said his brother died right before the medicine he is now on was released.

The medicine has made it so Sullivan's cancer is almost in remission and, as long as he continues to take it, the cancer can't even be detected in his system.

"It's made me become a lot more conscious about what I say in my music," Sullivan said.

Now, he uses his music to encourage people to get tested. Cancer isn't something you think about getting tested for when you're 16, he said.

"It's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life," he said.

Sullivan, who is now 22, has a 2-year-old son. Because he is concerned that his son might get the same cancer, he makes sure his son goes in for blood tests.

"There's really nothing we can do," Sullivan said.

In 2012, Sullivan released a YouTube video of his song "Heart of A Warrior." He said the song is about being diagnosed with cancer and is "one of the more personal songs I've wrote."

Before his diagnosis, Sullivan said he was into feel-good party music.

"Now, I'm more into the real life, storytelling songs," he said.

He enjoys many styles of music, from country to hip hop and jazz, and tries to incorporate elements from many genres into his music.

He also insists on keeping his music free of profanities.

"It's positive, clean and tells a story," Sullivan said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.