Wednesday20 September 2017

Wedding Celebrates Life and Faith
BY STEVE LEVIN The Bakersfield Californian This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Brandon Gonzales looked like a groom should on his wedding day, his tux sharp, shoes gleaming, a gold bow tie and pocket square perfectly folded, and a double rose boutonniere.

He couldn't stop smiling, surrounded as he was by family and friends Sunday at the Ice House's Elements Venue.


And that was before the 7-year-old maiden of honor approached, followed by 4- and 5-year-old bridesmaids in tule stepping carefully down the aisle tossing gold petals.

But his biggest smile came when his bride-to-be, Sara McGaha, joined him before the minister.

Like at any wedding there were plenty of tears among the 120 guests. These tears, though, were bittersweet.

Gonzales, 25, has Stage IIIC nonseminomas testicular cancer, which has metastasized into his lungs.

Some call it terminal. He says it's a chance for him "to turn a negative into a positive."

His two-and-a-half year struggle with the cancer -- which normally has a cure rate of up to 98 percent when caught early, which his was -- has impressed everyone he's met, including his oncologist, Dr. Ravi Patel, the medical director and major partner of the Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center.

Gonzales has undergone chemotherapy twice and a stem cell transplant. The cancer has always returned.

"Throughout the entire time this young guy has never been discouraged," Patel said. "He feels he can get healed."

When he lost his job, Gonzales received insurance help through the Kern County Cancer Fund.

And when Patel and the CBCC learned the couple did not have money for a honeymoon, they sprung for a week-long trip to Mexico.

Gonzales' story gives a different perspective on life, relationships and faith, Patel said.

"It reminds people how important it is to accept people as they are and to accept them and love them," he said.

Sunday, Gonzales, McGaha (pronounced McGayhee) and her 7-year-old daughter, Nevaeh, were showered with love.

The couple first met in high school, then drifted apart. McGaha married and had Nevaeh, but her husband died. Gonzales and McGaha began building their own relationship. In July, Gonzales began the formal process to adopt Nevaeh.

"I am absolutely thrilled," said Kay McGaha, who walked her daughter down the aisle. "I've watched these two grow up as a couple.

"I've never seen such grace and dignity. They have a deep faith in God and believe in miracles. They just wanted his solid commitment to each other."

Gonzales' mother, Gina McFadden, made a futile effort to hide her tears at her oldest child's wedding.

"It's been a rough ride the last two years," she said. "I'm trying to stay positive. I'm glad he's got a lot of support behind him."

After the ceremony there was a seated dinner and cake. And then, announced Gonzales' new mother-in-law, there would be "some serious dancing."