LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Becoming a race car driver isn't easy. The path is full of twists, turns, and roadblocks.
Racing is similar to life.
Gabe Tesch, 16, has ambitions of being the best driver to race. Like most NASCAR and Formula 1 drivers, Tesch started with go karts.
His passion brought him to Las Vegas this weekend where he competed in the Supernationals Superkarts! races at the Rio.
Tesch practically grew up at the track, but a major setback put life as he knew it on hold.
"I think I was 12 or 13 when I got diagnosed with cancer," Tesch said.
While other kids were battling on the track, Tesch was in a hospital bed battling brain cancer.
"We just got out of the hospital and my mom said, 'You have brain cancer,'" Tesch recalled, describing the moment he learned the news. "I just kind of froze. It was just a crazy thing to hear."
Doctors found a small tumor on the right side of his brain. For the next few years, Tesch would undergo aggressive treatments and recovery.
He lost most of physical strength, needed a feeding tube to pump nutrients into his body, and his kidneys nearly failed.
Tesch overcame cancer, but the road to recovery was just as tough.
"I couldn't really hang out with my friends. I was always in the hospital," Tesch said. "I couldn't do normal activities because, right after my surgery, I had to relearn to walk and everything."
The teen's mom and dad were there every step of the way.
"It makes you appreciate every moment that you have with your kids," Tesch's dad, Jake, said. "I mean, a day where he's feeling good and can just smile and laugh, and you know, maybe go outside for a few hours."
It took nearly 18 months for Tesch to regain strength, get outside, and finally return to the track.
"I was was just having the best day of my life," Tesch said about his return to racing. "I just felt so free and, you know, nothing was worrying me. I just felt like I was in my own world."
Tesch now has the chance to give others a peak inside his world, showing what it takes to become not just a survivor but a champion.
"Just push through it," Tesch said. "Just keep fighting. You can get through it. Don't let [cancer] get you down after. Do something extraordinary rather than something normal."
Those are words we can all live by.
Click here to learn more about Gabe and join his mission in helping others.