Eye on KELOLAND: Gabe Gitzen’s story


SIOUX FALLS, S..D (KELO) — Sending your three-year-old child into surgery is already nerve-wracking enough.

When the Gitzen family sent their son in for a common procedure, they weren’t expecting the diagnosis that followed.

July 25th, 2018 is a day the Gitzen family won’t soon forget. That was the day Sarah and Joe Gitzen noticed something strange happening with their son Gabe.

“The day that we both noticed his right tonsil was swollen, red, large. I noticed it sitting across the table from him just having a normal conversation. Joe noticed it coming home from work going into the garage,” Sarah Gitzen, Gabe’s mom said.

The Gitzen’s were advised to set up an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. They hoped the swelling would go down on its own, but it didn’t, and eating became a challenge for Gabe. That’s when they scheduled surgery.

“But once he got in there, he could see that it was more than just a Tonsillectomy that he was going to need. He realized it was a tumor,” Sarah Gitzen said.

Gabe was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma in his right tonsil and was scheduled to go through four rounds of chemotherapy. He was just three years old at the time.

“I tell people that if he had to have cancer, he did get it at the right age. He was old enough to explain how he was feeling, ‘my tummy hurts,’ ‘I don’t feel good.’ But he’s young enough that he’s not gonna remember it, hopefully. He didn’t understand how scary it was,” Sara Gitzen said.

Even during his chemotherapy treatments, Gabe never lost his spirit.

“Even when he had the tumor in the back of his throat, you could never tell,” Joe Glitzen said.

“I think that’s a big part of what also kept us going. To see him just being a normal kid and I mean, that was a true blessing that he was so full of energy still even going through chemo,” Sarah Gitzen said.

On November 27th, Gabe rang the bell after his final round of Chemo.

“It was scary because we lived at the Castle for three months. We had the support of the nurses everyday and we knew the chemo was killing the cancer. After he was done with chemo, like, what’s gonna protect him? No one wanted him to be done with chemo more than us, but we also wanted him to stay on chemo to protect him, you know? So, it was just a lot of emotions that day,” Sarah Gitzen said.

And on December 12th, Gabe’s scan came back all clear. However, last month, Gabe had his 18 month scan and doctors found some reactive tissue in his other tonsil. I met with the Gitzen family just two days before Gabe went back into surgery to have his left tonsil removed.

Through this whole process, the Gitzen family has been extremely thankful for the Children’s Miracle Network and the staff at the Sanford Children’s Hospital.

“The Childlife Specialists are just amazing. There are no real words to describe how great they are,” Joe Gitzen said.

“If we didn’t have Children’s Miracle Network, I don’t know if we would’ve come through on the other side like how positive the outcome was. Emotional support, financial support, I don’t know if we would be where we are without them,” Sarah Gitzen said.

Now at five years old, Gabe is full of energy. He loves playing with his monster trucks and running around with his sister, Genesis. His parents are hopeful he’ll lead a happy and cancer-free life from now on.

“He wants to be a police officer someday, so hopefully he can reach that goal,” Sarah Gitzen said.

From a common procedure to a scary diagnosis to now playing in the sand and hoping for a bright future.

Gabe’s father tells KELOLAND News his son’s surgery to remove the left tonsil went well and the pathology report came back with no signs of cancer.

Gabe is one of many CMN Kids we’ll be introducing you to leading up to our 2020 Children’s Miracle Network Special which will air on Tuesday, August 11th at 6:30 p.m. on KELO-TV.

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