Gabe Tesch: Surviving Childhood Cancer With a Drive to Do Something Extraordinary

article by Jessica Simpkins, MD, photo by Val Mohney

Spokane native Gabe Tesch and his family have been through the ringer. At 11 years old, only two months after his mother finished treatment for breast cancer, Gabe was diagnosed with brain cancer. He underwent surgery, 48 days of radiation, and 48 weeks of chemotherapy.

Gabe says it was challenging to miss out on being a normal child for those years. “It was hard to get back to normal life after I finished all of my treatments. I had missed a lot. It was like I went from 5th grade to 8th grade. And with where my brain tumor was, I had to relearn to walk and nearly lost my speech.”

At 13, Gabe was granted his dream trip through Make-A-Wish. Gabe and his family went to Austin, Texas for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. “I got to meet all of the drivers, who were like superheroes to me. It was amazing! On the plane home, I told my parents I wanted to be a race-car driver.”

Gabe Tesch

Gabe Tesch, race car driver

At first his parents chuckled, but they quickly rallied to support him. Gabe often says, “God didn’t get me through cancer to do something ordinary, he got me through cancer to do something extraordinary.”

Gabe inherited his love of racing from his father. “My dad raced vintage sports cars for fun at the local track, and we’d watch races on TV together. Some of my best memories as a kid were going to the racetrack with him.”

At 15 years of age, Gabe started racing go-karts. “Most kids start racing go-karts when they’re seven or eight. The question was always, ‘How can I catch up to these guys as fast as possible?’ I had times of doubt, but I have a lot of faith, and going through cancer made me stronger to help me push through. At first I was terrible! I finished dead last in my first race, and I didn’t even finish my second race because I crashed,” Gabe laughs.

Gabe says his father and he approached Burt Gasaway, 14-time Grand National Champion go-kart racer, to be his racing coach. “Once Burt started coaching me, I won six races in a row and ended up winning the championship. He coached me for another 1-2 years after that, and we’re still good friends.”

Before he could move onto racing cars, which is an expensive endeavor, Gabe’s father set the goal of Gabe being able to place in the top five at any go-kart race in the U.S.. He attacked that challenge head-on, and last year Gabe completed his first season racing cars. He lived in the U.K. for eight months where he competed in the British National Formula Ford Championship for Team Dolan.

“It was a lot of fun and I learned so much. It requires a lot of skill, especially at the lower levels, because everyone is racing the same model of car. This season I’ll be in the United States racing in the Radical Cup and the Skip Barber F4. I’m glad I’ll be able to spend more time with my family and friends,” Gabe shares.

At 19 years old, Gabe leads a very different life than the majority of his peers. “I can’t relate to a lot of my other friends who are in college living a normal life. I have a crazy busy schedule, people always need me somewhere, and I’ve been busy doing interviews. It’s been crazy, but I love racing and want to inspire people, especially kids that are going through what I’ve been through. It’s all worth it.”

Gabe also shares that they’ve just finished filming a documentary about his life and early career in racing. His dad had put together a sizzle reel to present to different producers. After talking with several motorsports film companies, they partnered with Virginie and Augustin Dulauroy at Pindare Films.

“There was a small handful of other producers who were interested in filming the documentary, but our timeline and vision best matched with Pindare Films,” Gabe explains. The first documentary will be coming out late February or early March on Amazon, and will be the first in a series of documentaries on Gabe’s life. “This summer we will start filming the second part,” Gabe explains.

When asked what he loves about racing, Gabe responds, “Every time I put on my helmet and suit, everything kind of goes away. When I’m racing, I’m in my happy place. I’m focused on what I’m doing. Once the helmet comes off, I’m back to reality. And I guess I just like going fast.”

Gabe’s hope is that by living out his dreams he can inspire other kids with cancer that they can dream big too. His advice to those kids is this: “There’s so many people that will put you down. Don’t let it get to you. There are lots of times where doctors are going to tell you you won’t be able to do certain things. I had so many times where doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to race at all or do any kind of sports. I didn’t let that stop me. Don’t let fear hold you back, especially from doing something you love.”

And to anyone who is afraid to pursue their dreams at any age, Gabe shares, “A lot of people fear failure and that’s why they don’t work hard to do something they love. They fear what people will think, how people will judge them if they don’t make it, and what people think you should or should not do. My dad always tells me, ‘Everything you do, you’re going to work at it. Why not work at something you love rather than working at something you think is easy?’”

For more information about Gabe and how to support his journey, visit and be sure to check out the trailer for his up-coming film, Do Something Extraordinary.