Hello friends, family and colleagues! Gabe and his family need your help. You can read the full story and latest updates about Gabe’s health below, but the key information is that Gabe has stage IV colon cancer and is fighting for his life right now. He is extremely lucky and grateful to have incredible support from his amazing family and friends, caring for him 24/7. Gabe and his family are also lucky to have good health insurance and financial resources. But this kind of life struggle turns everything sideways, and after a hard look at the family budget, Gabe and his family are realizing that things just aren’t sustainable for the level of care that he needs right now and for the serious fight ahead. The situation is devastating in so many ways, with your help, we’re hoping to provide some peace of mind in the financial realm.
We’re asking a lot, but Gabe and his family have put some serious and thoughtful reflection into how additional resources will benefit Gabe and improve his health and chances right now and over the next year. It has been extremely difficult for Gabe and Robyn to not only surf the ups and downs of this health crisis, but to also get really honest about their needs. Their modus operandi has always been one of self-sufficiency, but at this crucial moment they want to be able to do whatever they think will improve Gabe’s chances and make his life better without having to worry too much about financial strain.
If you can contribute at any level, it will be a huge blessing to this family. Your support will go a long way towards giving them peace of mind in the financial realm so that they can put all energy and focus into healing. Gabe and his family balance their hope with a tough sense of realism, and know that in the end, this may be a fight they just can’t win. In that case, the money will support the family through the rough times, and provide for Maxine’s future education. What your support will go towards:At-home Care
The primary and substantial concern they need help with right now is for Robyn to take time off work to care for Gabe. Gabe is currently receiving palliative care in the home, with infrequent visits from the nurses and doctors. Luckily, Robyn is a RN and has been able to provide Gabe a much higher level of around-the-clock care that is making a significant and substantial difference in his health. But this means she has been missing work. She has almost exhausted her ‘paid time off.’ With your help, Robyn can take a longer leave from work, while still being able to pay the mortgage and keep the lights on. Their hope is to raise enough money that she can take three to four months either off or on a modified schedule. Treatments
The next thing is the long haul struggle and treatments. This is harder to quantify and define. Gabe is currently making great progress getting through a series of crises (you can read details below) and the family is very hopeful that in the next couple of months he’ll reach a stable position where he’s eating, drinking, and has higher mobility. This would then allow him to seek multiple outside opinions from experts in the field, which will probably have to be paid for out of pocket and may involve travel. At the same time, the family will pursue new kinds of complementary and alternative treatments since there honestly may not be that many options with traditional medicine. Luckily, Gabe and his family are all endowed with a very healthy sense of skepticism, and there are several healthcare professionals in his family, so they aren’t going to be pursuing shady practices that promise easy miraculous cures. But they do believe there are lots of positive things that can be done to boost Gabe’s overall health and strengthen his body and immune system to help fight the cancer; things like nutritional supplements, acupuncture, massage, heat treatments, oxygen treatments, IV vitamin treatments, etc. are all on the table. Unfortunately, these treatments and associated costs--such as consulting with out-of-network experts, paying out of pocket for supplements and treatments, possible travel, and child care--get expensive.Background and current status details:
Towards the end of 2017 Gabe experienced some vague but persistent discomfort in his abdomen. He has a history of Crohn’s disease but had experienced no symptoms in twenty years. He went to the doctors and after a series of tests, was diagnosed with a stricture in his intestine. Surgery was scheduled. All the testing leading up to that surgery was meant to rule out colon cancer, so he went into it without even considering that as a possibility. But after a successful surgery in June 2018, the pathology came back positive for stage 3 colon cancer - meaning that it had moved from the colon into adjacent lymph nodes. It was devastating and shocking news, delivered on Gabe and Robyn’s fourth anniversary and just a few days after they had first learned that they would be having a baby girl that fall. The good news was that the surgery he had for the stricture was exactly the same that that is performed for a cancer diagnosis. The other good news was that with the surgery and chemotherapy, his odds of a total cure were very high, something over 70%. So Gabe and his family focused on the positive and Gabe went through chemo in the summer and fall of 2018. Along the way he kept teaching (with the help and support from his colleagues), moved two book projects along, and most importantly, welcomed baby Maxine Hope to the world in November. Gabe and Robyn and their family were feeling good and had good reason to think that the cancer was all behind them as they moved into 2019.
Despite feeling good, when Gabe went for his first post-chemo checkup in April 2019, they discovered the unthinkable - the cancer had spread to the lining of his abdomen and his left lung. At that point it was considered inoperable and incurable. The news was devastating. Still, there was hope that a new chemo protocol would slow the disease down and that there would still be a lot of good years ahead. Gabe was doing great on the new chemo. He had even started surfing again. He was looking forward to teaching again in the Fall 2019 semester. However, on August 10th, 2019, he experienced extreme abdominal pain and went to the ER.
He was diagnosed with a micro-perforation of the bowel, caused either by the cancer or a rare side effect of one of the drugs he was on. He had to stop taking food and liquid by mouth and was placed on IV nutrition and fluid. Regular surgical treatments were not an option because of the cancer in his gut. He spent 2.5 weeks in the hospital fighting everyday against infection, pain and the dire prognosis of the doctors. He also developed a couple of abscesses in his lower abdominal/pelvic area. Luckily at this point, Interventional Radiology got involved and said they could place drains that would hopefully resolve the abscesses. These seemed to help and Gabe’s condition became stable enough that he was able to go home on palliative care.
This meant basically that Kaiser setup a mini-hospital room at Gabe and Robyn’s house where he could continue to get IV antibiotics and IV nutrition. Since he’s been home, he’s continued struggling but is getting stronger and showing several positive signs. As of the week of September 16, 2019:
A recent CT scan showed that the abcesses did indeed resolve. The drains were removed on Monday, September 16, 2019, which is a huge physical and mental relief. The CT also showed no current signs of a perforation. Consequently, he has started taking in liquids by mouth, slowly learning to drink again and to gently bring his digestive system back online. All good stuff! Now the hope is to continue that trend, moving slowly towards full liquids and finally food. About Gabe, Robyn and Maxine:
Just to say a little bit about this family in case you don’t know them so well. Gabe is a native of Chico, California where he grew up with his three younger siblings on a walnut farm. Robyn is originally from Long Beach, went to high school in Texas, and made her way back to Southern California after graduation as soon as she possibly could. She went on to become a registered nurse and currently works as a public health nurse for Los Angeles County. Gabe moved to Southern California to study filmmaking. As a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, he combines his love of media making with his academic interests in the cultural power of media. The two of them met in 2012 in the will-call line of a Jeff Magnum (lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel) concert at the Orpheum Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. They instantly became ‘line friends,’ moved in together within a couple months of dating, were engaged the following fall and married in June 2014. Their daughter Maxine Hope was born in November of 2018 in the midst of Gabe’s first rounds of chemo. They love her madly, as they love each other. And we want to help them to be able to share and shine that love for as long as they possibly can! Final Thoughts:
Again, this is a tough thing for Gabe and his family to ask. They’re already so grateful for the incredible love and support that their friends and family have shown them. But it comes back down to the hard truth that this is a fight for Gabe’s life and it is going to be hard on this family no matter what. Your help will ease the financial pressure and so they are reaching out to you with love and gratitude. And lots of hope.We chose GoFundMe because they do not charge an overall percentage; there are processing fees involved for each transaction, but they do not go to GoFundMe and are basically unavoidable for secure online transactions. If you have any concerns about that kind of thing though please reach out to us directly.