As John Gaebel relaxes in a subtle flower-patterned chair at his home in Mission Viejo, CA, he thinks about how lucky he is. Gaebel, who towers above most people at 6’4”, has genuine joy in his eyes as he talks about his life — his career, his upcoming travel plans and his growing family: his wife, two sons and three grandchildren. He considers himself a “type A” personality, preferring to be in control of as many aspects of his life as possible.
To look at him, you might never know that just two years ago, Gaebel was dealt an blow that would send his world spinning out of his control. At age 64, the former dentist and business owner was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage III esophageal cancer.
The prognosis for such a late-stage disease isn’t good; according to Gaebel’s Keck Medicine of USC surgeon, only about 35 percent of those in Gaebel’s shoes survive. But this is where Gaebel has been truly lucky. Between being in excellent health at the time of his diagnosis, having the support of a loving family and receiving outstanding treatment from his Digestive Health team at Keck Medicine of USC, he has come through his illness to a near-full recovery — and with a new lease on life.
Gaebel’s story began during a routine visit to his primary care physician in March 2012. “I had what I thought was some indigestion,” he said. After learning Gaebel’s symptoms, his doctor suggested they take a look at his stomach through a scope, just in case. Confident that nothing was wrong, Gaebel agreed to the procedure. But a few days later, he received a call that changed his life.
“I can remember the day quite… Read More »