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17-year-old Gabe Duplechian is starting the exciting adventure of planning for life after high school. As a cancer survivor, he's going into it knowing there's nothing he can't do.

Gabe during treatment

the diagnosis and starting treatment 

Flash back to 2012 and life looked very different. Gabe was in second grade, having a lot of pain in his bones and joints. After three months of searching, Gabe's parents, Adrienne and Jason, finally got their answer: Gabe was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia with bone involvement. Gabe went through three and a half years of treatment with Mukund Dole, MD, finishing treatment in 2016.

"When it first started, we were all scared. We would say to each other 'Is your mind right?' to try to get each other to focus on the positive before heading into difficult days of treatment. Even if it was just seeing Dr. Dole or our nurse friends, we found something positive," Adrienne shared.

a bright spot in the darkness

Gabe with family

For Gabe, that time seemed dark, but he remembers always trying to find the good. Their "incredible" care team was a bright spot for them. With all of the appointments and treatments during Gabe's journey, the Duplechians became close with their care team. Now, when Gabe comes to meet Adrienne for lunch at Dayton Children's (she works in the EEG department), they still invite one of Gabe's favorite nurses to join them.

Specifics of treatment are now, thankfully, a distant memory for Gabe. He's seen just once a year in the long-term follow-up clinic. At his annual visits, Gabe meets with key caregivers, like Dr. Dole, a nurse coordinator and social work, to check in. Late effects of cancer treatment can show up well into adulthood, so patients are encouraged to continue coming to the clinic for life.

Gabe on boat

life beyond cancer 

At this point, cancer no longer defines the Duplechians' lives. Gabe is graduating from Kettering Fairmont High School in June 2023, and is thinking about pursuing a career as a high school English teacher, or maybe going into agriculture following in his grandparents' footsteps. Regardless of what he decides, Adrienne and Jason are certain Gabe has a bright future ahead of him.

Gabe is excited for this next phase, and recognizes the impact that his cancer journey has had on his life and who he is as a person. Gabe's optimism and gratitude are inspiring, and his maturity and wisdom are beyond his years.

"When I was younger, everyone knew me as the kid with cancer. Now, so many people in school don't even know. I'm no longer characterized that way. That makes me feel better. But, when it's all said and done, if I didn't go through what I went through, I wouldn't be me," Gabe said. "I've really learned that life is precious, and am very happy and grateful being a normal kid."