By Mike Linn
A Portales man who underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant four months ago is back doing chores he once feared he might never do again.
Kevin Gardels, diagnosed one year ago with a rare cancer called Myelofibrosis, successfully completed surgery at a hospital in Los Angeles last spring and returned to his Portales home in late June.
“When I finally got home, nothing ever felt or looked so good — even with the cows stinking the place up — as Portales,” Gardels said. “I didn’t think I would ever see my kids again, my wife — there was a couple weeks there where I didn’t know which way it would go. I have a great feeling of thanks to God for pulling me through this.”
Gardels has just recently gained the energy to do what most would consider menial tasks: walking, running errands, cleaning house.
Within eight months, if everything goes well, Gardels said he will be back to 100 percent. His red blood cell level is about half that of a normal human, and it will take eight months before the count gets to uniform levels, Gardels said.
The red blood cell levels are constantly monitored; if they get too low Gardels will need a blood transfusion, something he experienced on a regular basis immediately following his bone marrow transplant.
Myelofibrosis is a cancer that occurs in one out of every 200,000 people, according to officials at the chemotherapy department at Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis.
Gardels said the financial costs of his disease are up around $1 million and the bone marrow transplant itself was roughly $500,000. Insurance paid for much of the expenses, Gardels said, but the disease forced the former state employee to resign from his job.
The past year has taken a dramatic toll on his body: the once 280-pound man’s weight plummeted to 140 pounds. And his immune system was so weak for months he wore a breathing mask.
But with the worst part of the disease in Gardel’s rear view mirror, he said the future looks promising.
Within a year, Gardels said he would like to get back to work, probably in the radio business where he worked for 20 years.
“Anybody who is having difficult times in life, be it cancer or whatnot, it’s important for them to keep their faith in God,” Gardels said. “It’s the only thing that keeps you going.”