Gabe Gitzen, a 5-year-old cancer survivor, with his parents Sara and Joe Gitzen.

Meet our champion: Gabe Gitzen

July 30, 2020

Gabe Gitzen dreams of being a police officer … Or a firefighter … Or maybe even a paramedic. More than anything, he wants to be a hero to others.

Today, Gabe’s future is bright and he has the chance to be whatever he wants.

Not too long ago, Gabe’s future wasn’t so certain. His parents, Sarah and Joe, found themselves in a waking nightmare. Gabe, then just 3 years old, was diagnosed with cancer after a routine tonsillectomy.

“It never even registered to us that cancer could be possible,” Sara said. “Gabe never acted sick.”

The Madison family found hope in Sanford Children’s Castle of Care – home to the region’s only pediatric cancer experts and the Child Life staff who made Gabe feel like the king of the castle.

“The second we entered that castle, they were there with a set of toys waiting for him,” Joe said. “Anytime you can see your kid smile and have a good time during that kind of situation is a blessing.

“Gabe was a rock star. He handled it like a champion.”

Gabe was diagnosed on Aug. 31, 2018, and by Christmas time, his cancer was in remission.

The family was so relieved, but for Sara, that’s when the stress of the past few months started to sink in.

“During treatment, you are in war mode,” Sara said. “When treatment is over, you move back into normal life and have time to dwell on what just happened. Now every bump, every mark, my head goes to the worst-case scenario, because we’ve been there. That will always be in the back of my mind.”

 

Give health

The Gitzens aren’t alone. There are so many kids and families facing the uncertainty and difficulty of an injury or illness. They rely on expert care at Sanford Children’s Hospital. As you give thanks for all the blessings in your own life, please consider also giving more families strength and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org/holidays to make your first and most important gift of the season.