Original Publication: Natural Muscle Magazine – 2012 ©
By Carolina Gonzalez
Photography by Carolina Gonzalez
Page Layout by Alex Gonzalez
Sometimes hard circumstances are the roads that lead to understandings, reconciliations, doubts, changes, forgiveness, ends or new beginnings. Sometimes they lead to silence, other times they lead to screaming and laughter. But it seems that the road where extreme sickness and rare cases have vivacious outcomes, is one that finds its way to everyone’s hearts. Perhaps because it helps us all to overcome fears or because it stirs up deep conceptions, and some that have been scientifically proven.
This is the case of Dave Gandell, a young adult who was notified more than twice, that he would die pretty soon right after he was diagnosed with a rare type of Cancer. Science had come to the conclusion that his battle will be short even before starting treatment. But David did battle. He surprised some of the ‘negative’ doctors, and has become one strong survivor who gives hope to millions battling similar prognosis.
“In January 2004, at age 29,” explained David, “I felt a lump in the lower region, and it took me seven months to visit a doctor. In August, I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer, and a month later I had my first surgery.” But when the Cancer came back in April 2006, the projection seemed to be unbreakable. Doctors found that the pain David had been enduring was the result of a massive tumor that covered his abdomen; the majority of his organs where being crushed by it, and surgery was a risky option. According to David, the X-rays and Scans showed a tumor that looked like a tree living inside his body.
Doctors diagnosed him with Immature Teratoma. This type of cancer is a rare malignant tumor that begins in the cells that grow sperm or eggs. According to the National Library of Medicine “Malignant Teratoma occurs most often in young men in their 20s and 30s. It is often located in the chest area. Most malignant teratomas can spread throughout the body, and have spread by the time of diagnosis.” The treatment of choice for this type of Cancer is surgery in order to remove the entire tumor; but when the tumor is very large, it usually compromises other organs and the life of the patient.
For a while, David dealt with the gloomy prognosis by achieving his goals and by living life according to his plans. “I have been working in the Fitness Industry most of my life. I have been a personal trainer, a gym manager, a consultant, and a master of ceremonies for major fitness competitions. One of my goals, in 2006, was to Host Universe Weekend in South Florida, which is in June, and I did it. I continued to fulfill my dreams while maintaining a good diet, holistic treatments and injections of Vitamin C.” However, the severity of David’s case originated an urgent situation. On Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, days after working as model at a fashion show in Orlando, his body was weak, he was enduring a very tough reality, and he was rushed to the emergency room. “Once again, doctors reminded me that I would rapidly die because of the aggressive Cancer I had.” Explained David with frustration in his eyes. Their option, according to David, was to await his death.
Some people do believe that when one door closes, another one opens; and just like that, a doctor from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, took David’s case and gave him a chance. Doctor Pasquale W. Benadetto, M.D. had David transferred on August 11th. “When I got to the hospital, I made sure the doctor knew I was there; that I have made it to the hospital – still alive. I wanted him to know that I was ready to keep fighting for my life and my dreams,” said David.
The 12-hour surgery was very dangerous, and the prognosis, once again, was very dull. “After the surgery, I was told, yet again, that I will not survive… this time the medical staff was very specific: I will not survive the week; but my determination helped me to push through those hard and difficult days.”
David went home to await the changes. On August 25th with a weak body, insecure health, but tons of hope and a big smile, David found himself waiting to keep on living. “That day, I remember the way I had envisioned myself, with Cancer, at the beginning of this journey. I had seen myself without hair and having a weak body.” This visualization, somehow, represented his deepest fears; but beyond all, that vision symbolized his determination to triumph over difficult times. In other words, this nearly end to David’s life, became the new beginning. “On August 25th 2006, I was photographed, “ added David with tears in his eyes yet, “without hair, with a fragile body, weighting only 124 pounds; but pointing to the sky; because there is no limit to my faith and to my hope.”
At that point in his life, David strongly believed that he would be up and running once again; that his journey will become a testimony, a record of survival, and a light in the dreary path called Cancer. “I felt profound desire to keep fighting this cancer; but most importantly, I became mentally stronger, and so did my faith.” It became clear to David, on August 25th, that he would endure chemotherapy and all its terrible and grueling side effects. David was convinced that a positive outcome would give him the strength to share a constructive message. A message of life and not death, a message of fighters, a note to cancer patients that surviving is part of the statistics, and death sentences can be overruled.
David underwent 7 rounds of Chemotherapy, 96 chemos in total, being the last one done on December 31st, 2006. On February 1st 2007, David was declared Cancer Free. The risky surgery and aggressive treatment did provide him another chance to keep on living. Nevertheless, David is extremely grateful to superior forces: Hope and Faith. “I do believe that God healed me”.
Perhaps feeling the goodness in his body is what made David accept his healing as God’s genuine act. Perhaps his religious upbringing or his strong desire to share his message and God’s message is what fueled his recovery. Yet, the result is the same: David is a survivor.
Now, humanity can see David not as a rare case, but a light in the roads where darkness prevails. David is an eye opening case for fatalist doctors and scientists. He is a promoter of strength, and an uplifting smile for those who suffer. David, as well as other Cancer survivors, is a messenger from the world of possibilities. “Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope.” Author unknown.
Nowadays, David celebrates his fifth year being Cancer Free. Hopefully, his future continues to be strong. He maintains a rich and healthy diet. His lifestyle includes physical activities, and he continues hosting competition shows. “I truly enjoy the fitness industry. I do have neurological and joint problems, and I lost a kidney. However, I am looking forward to keep on sharing my story: Cancer is not a death sentence,” he said with a heartening smile.
David’s journey and message surpass some ‘reasonable understanding,’ and exceeds the meaning of words like Inspiration and Strength, Faith and Hope.