HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kansas boy who’s fighting cancer says his dad is his hero. The feeling’s mutual, and both have matching “battle wounds” to prove it.
Gabriel Marshall, 8, is like any other kid. He loves to laugh, play outside, and sometimes pick on his younger sister. It’s times like those Gabriel cherishes.
“I feel like a free kid. I feel like a normal person,” said Gabriel Marshall.
The soon-to-be third grader has been battling brain cancer since March of 2015.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked.. you know how could this happen?” asks Gabriel’s mom, Bethany Schultz. “He has always been so healthy, so active and then they turn around and rip my heart out.”
“At the moment when we found out about it, it felt like somebody had ripped my stomach out of my body,” said Gabriel’s dad Josh Marshall.
Gabriel has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. He’s also had a tumor removed from his head.
“I call it my battle scar,” Gabriel said.
At first, Gabriel said the scar was cool. Then, it really hit home.
“Everybody was staring at me, so I felt like kind of like a monster,” Gabriel said.
“To hear him say that, it truly broke my heart,” Josh said.
“He wouldn’t even leave the house without a beanie on, a hat or a hoodie,” said Bethany.
So, Gabriel’s dad decided to get a battle scar of his own.
“I asked him, you know, “Would you be OK if i got your scar tattooed on my head?” Marshall said.
Gabriel’s answer was crystal clear.
“He’s my best pal! He’s my pal!” he said.
Gabriel now refers to his dad as his twin, someone who’s got his back when it seems no one else does.
“For him to just do this for me, to keep all of the people away from me, kind of not stare at me.. So now we can both get stared at.” Gabriel said.
“He’s my best friend, he really is,” Josh said.
Josh entered a picture showing his tattoo and Gabriel’s scar into the St. Baldrick’s 2016 #BestBaldDad competition and won. The picture got more than 5,000 votes online and more than 100,000 likes on social media.
Gabriel’s family is hoping to use the win to spread awareness about childhood cancer.
“I want other people to know that childhood cancer is not that rare,” Josh said. “One in 284 kids will get cancer and seven kids a day will die from cancer.”