Rickey Gooch was running all over the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University last Saturday night. He was everywhere. He was backstage checking sound, and making sure all the lights were just perfect for last Saturday night’s DDFaith Memorial Gospel Sing in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Rickey is the husband of Southern Gospel Music icon Karen Peck, and he dearly loves his work behind the scenes as the group’s road manager and sound technician.
By looking at him, you would never know he just beat cancer recently. You’d also never guess he’s nearly 60 because he’s in great physical shape. He is a living testament to God’s grace and ability to miraculously heal the sick.
Karen Peck and New River is not your ordinary Southern Gospel group either. They have been nominated for four Grammy Awards and have earned six GMA Dove Awards over the years. They have had more than 15 number one hits, and Karen has won 11 Favorite Soprano Fan Awards from the Singing News. But all those awards don’t hold a candle to Rickey’s wonderful testimony and more importantly his health.
About two years ago, Rickey was diagnosed with cancer in his tonsils. Although initial reports were somewhat encouraging, that “C” word was still quite intimidating.
He was told the survival rate for this cancer was about 80% in his favor. “[Doctors] said if you are going to get cancer, then this is the kind to have,” Rickey told me backstage before the show. “But I was still scared.”
However, he was also informed the treatments would be brutal. There was no sugar coating it – he was going to go through misery. But he would live, although, at times during the treatments, he questioned that.
It was ironic – or a blessing – that Rickey was in Portsmouth with his group to sing in memory of Dee Dee Duduit, who died of ovarian cancer two years ago – this was the same time he was diagnosed.
Rickey would be off the road for a few months while undergoing treatments and did not work– although he would travel with the group at times.
It was hard for him to lie in bed and listen to the others load up the equipment – something he always did, but now he couldn’t. “That was tough because I felt useless,” Rickey said. After all, he has done this for the past 26 years. It’s been his and Karen’s life – they have been married for 28 years.
Naturally, Rickey relied on those close to him to help get him through the tough times.
“I could be in my bed and actually feel people praying for me,” Rickey said. “Friends would always text me Bible verses and encourage me.”
He also battled bouts where Satan tried to creep into his thoughts and tell him God didn’t care about all of those years of service to the Lord.
“[Satan] would tell me the race was over,” Rickey said. He even thought about who he was going to have as his pallbearers at his funeral. That’s how low he sank.
It was not coincidental the messages from friends came to Rickey at his lowest times. “God knew when I needed those,” he said. “It always powered me up some.”
Finally, after 33 radiation treatments and three chemotherapy treatments, Rickey received wonderful news. The Lord used medical professionals and doctors to heal him. One verse kept him going during this trial.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 KJV
At times, Rickey’s faith was tested, but he always went back to the basics –– have the faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, and mighty things can happen.
“…If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove and nothing shall be impossible.” Matthew 17:20 KJV
Surely Rickey could have more faith than that, he thought to himself. And he did. “If having a little bit of faith like that could move a mountain, then it can heal my body,” he said.
Rickey had the faith, and the Lord chose to honor that faith. And He even taught Rickey a valuable lesson – to have more compassion towards others.
Now, when he is at the record table, and he hears stories from people who have cancer, he pays even more attention. “We hear it so much and you become cold sometimes,” he said. “But when it hits you, now suddenly it’s more important to listen and pray for them.”
Rickey is back now working harder than ever and doing what he loves to do. Karen Peck and New River is indeed a family affair. He and Karen’s son Matthew plays the guitar, and their daughter Kari sings with the group as well as Karen’s sister, Susan Peck-Jackson. Kari also serves as the group’s product manager. They are joined by Ricky Braddy from Season Eight of American Idol. The group travels and sings about the Gospel of Christ all over the world.
“It’s been a great life,” Rickey added. “I’m just so thankful to the Lord I’m gonna be around a little longer to enjoy it.”