Gardels completes cancer documentary

By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer

Kevin Gardels not only served as director and producer of a documentary on cancer, he also shared his own story as cancer survivor on the video.

Gardels, graduate student in communication at Eastern New Mexico University, recently completed the video documentary, “Cancer: A Survivor’s Story,” as a special project for his Master of Arts degree.

The DVD was shot mostly against the backdrop of the Relay for Life at the Greyhound Arena in Portales. During Relay for Life, people help raise money for the American Cancer Society by taking pledges for walking around a track.

“It was a lot of hard work getting the documentary done, but the real challenge I ran into was that it was emotional for me because I was basically reliving my experience,” said Gardels who was 45 in 2003 when he battled primary myelofibrosis, a form of cancer in which bone marrow does not produce blood, but turns into scar tissue. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2003 at the City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles.

In addition to his own testimony, the documentary features interviews with other local cancer survivors, including Clyde Davis, pastor of First Presbyterian Church; Donald Elder, a professor of history at ENMU and sports commentator/announcer; and Bob Vartabedian, vice-president for Academic Affairs at Eastern.

Christopher Stasheff, an associate professor of Communication at ENMU, advised Gardels during the making of the documentary and describes the project as “an enlightening documentary” and “an excellent piece of work.”

Stasheff, also a cancer survivor, said, “Looking at the tape, I saw all kinds of people who I meet with and work everyday with who I did not know were cancer survivors. I was surprised to see how many people are in the same boat I’m in.”

Gardels said other challenges he faced were technical issues, like learning to create a documentary film as opposed to a fantasy film.

“As a documentary, you need to capture reality. On the other hand, it is a film and so you want to make it a little entertaining, but you also have to make sense out of it,” Gardels said.

This spring, Gardels presented his documentary at the Student Research Conference at ENMU and entered it in the recent High Plains Film Festival. He did not place in the festival.

Gardels, previously a radio personality and band leader, has served as an honorary chair in the Portales Relay for Life and been active in other ways, often lending his musical talent for the cause. Gardels sings several of his original songs in the documentary.

Gardels said he hopes to do a part II to his video because he has gotten new ideas.

“Survivors want to tell me their story,” he said. “As cancer survivors, we feel it is our duty … to offer hope to others.”

Fast Facts

What: “Cancer: A Survivor’s Story” video documentary
Where available: For rent at Landall’s Box Office in Portales and for sale at Hastings Books Music & Video in Clovis
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