When Josh Marshall learned that his six-year-old son Gabriel needed brain surgery, he knew his life would never be the same.
But when the day came for Gabriel’s life-saving operation, Josh did something amazing. In an incredible act of solidarity, this young father gave his son a permanent reminder of why he’d never be alone. His compassion resonated with millions around the globe. Now, see for yourself why this young father has been dubbed the ‘Best Dad Ever’…
Life Before Cancer
Gabriel Marshall was a normal, happy child of eight living in rural Kansas. But in March of 2015, Gabriel’s family received news that would change their lives forever.
Doctors told Gabriel and his family that he had a rare form of cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma. As serious and life-changing as this news was, what the Marshall’s found out next was even more disturbing.
Five Per Million
This form of cancer is so rare that it only affects roughly five people per million people in the U.S. annually. And unfortunately for Gabriel, it is also a highly aggressive and malignant form of the disease.
Anaplastic Astrocytoma is form of cancer that manifests as a life-threatening brain tumor, which grows quickly and must be removed before it envelops the surrounding brain tissue. Though the disease is often thought to be hereditary, in Gabriel’s case it was completely random.
The operation to remove the tumor was a delicate and dangerous one, and removing the bulk of the growth required major surgery.
Thankfully, the surgery itself was successful, and the majority of the tumor was removed. However, it left Gabriel with a glaring reminder of the incident, in the shape of a massive scar.
Josh told reporters that his son, despite his newfound good health, had had self-esteem issues because of the scar. Gabriel said that the scar on his head made him feel like a “monster.”
Josh knew he just had to do something to make his son feel better, after the ordeal he had been through, so he decided to take action.
Josh took a picture of his son’s scar to his tattoo artist, and asked him to replicate it in a show of solidarity for his son. The artist was able to replicate the scar almost perfectly.
Josh recalled telling his son, “You know what, I’ll get your scar tattooed. That way, if people want to stare at you, then they can stare at both of us.”
Josh knew that by this small act, he could help his son to feel more self confident and more positively about the struggle he had undergone. He wanted Gabriel to feel proud of how far he had come by overcoming the cancer.
Gabriel was absolutely thrilled with what his father had done for him. “It’s like we’re twins.” he said.
St. Baldrick’s Day
Josh posted the photo of the two of them on a website, with the hashtag #bestbalddad and the caption, “Me and my son at this year’s St. Baldrick’s event in Wichita, Kansas. Got my son’s scar tattooed to help his self confidence.”
After the votes had been counted up for the ‘Best Bald Dad’ contest, Josh and Gabriel turned out to be the clear winners, from among the 55 dads entered into the competition.
A Vote Of Confidence
The social media manager at the St. Baldricks’s Foundation, Alison Sutton, shared on BuzzFeed, “[It’s] the first time we’ve seen an entry where a dad went above and beyond shaving his head in solidarity with his child and got a tattoo to build his son’s self-confidence.”
The proud, brave father told reporters, “I never intended for it to be this big. It was just a friendly competition between fellow cancer dads and people showing support for their loved ones who have fought against cancer.”
The operation was a success and took care of the majority of the tumor, while just a tiny, benign remnant remains. Gabriel still has to have scans every few months just to be sure, but for the most part, he is considered to have made a full recovery.
Best Dad Ever
Apart from anything else, this gallery is a tribute to Josh Marshall, as well as to his son Gabriel, who proves what real compassion and love human beings are capable of, especially in the face of adversity.
[Featured image credit: Josh Marshall @ Facebook]