Richard Gaff is a fighter. He served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan after 9/11, but his biggest battle, by far, was facing testicular cancer. It was discovered in not one but both of his testicles, which is extremely rare.
Gaff had surgery to remove one testicle but was hesitant to remove the other one because he wanted to be able to have a biological child. The problem was his second testis was not producing sperm.
Desperate for a miracle, Gaff sought out doctor after doctor, only to be told, “It is not in your cards,” or “Focus on your health and beating cancer.” But he would not give up.
“I was not ready to let my dream die,” Gaff said. “I knew in my heart there was still a chance I could become a father.”
Eventually his search led him to Ranjith Ramasamy, M.D., a member of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of reproductive urology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
A Goal and a Plan
“It would have been so easy for him to just say ‘no’ and move on to the next patient like so many other doctors had. But Dr. Ramasamy understood that I had other goals than just beating cancer and he had a plan to help me become a father,” said Gaff. “Dr. Ramasamy had the capability, knowledge, and access to technology to take on this complicated case. He said, ‘If anybody can do this, it’s me.’ I appreciated that confidence.”
Dr. Ramasamy was true to his word: Gaff is now cancer-free and the father of Kadence, a beautiful baby girl.
“Kadence is definitely a miracle baby,” Gaff said. “My wife, Danni, and I are blessed to have her because of the medical expertise and cutting-edge technology only available at a highly advanced research hospital like Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and UHealth – the University of Miami Health System.”
As Gaff underwent treatment for his cancer with Dr. Dipen J. Parekh, the founding director of the Desai Sethi Urological Institute, COO and director of robotic surgery at UHealth, Dr. Ramasamy successfully performed a microdissection testicular sperm extraction to identify potentially viable sperm within Gaff’s testis and preserve the sperm for future in vitro fertilization (IVF). He is one of the few surgeons in the country able to perform this highly specialized fertility-preservation procedure.
The Patient’s Future
“With cancer, treatment and survival are paramount but we need to think about the patient’s future, too,” said Dr. Ramasamy, who is also an associate professor at the Miller School. “Fertility preservation counseling doesn’t even exist at many community centers, but at Sylvester, it’s an integral part of the protocol of how we treat patients with cancer.”
Treatment for testicular cancer typically involves surgery to remove the testis, chemotherapy or radiation, or a combination. All of these treatments can affect reproduction.
“Fertility preservation should always be discussed at the time of diagnosis,” Dr. Ramasamy said. “Preserving the chance of parenthood is an integral part of cancer survivorship. At Sylvester, we will go to all extents to preserve fertility for our patients.”
Gaff’s case is proof that, even in the direst circumstances, there are treatment options that allow men to go on to have biological children.
An Expression of Gratitude
“Without Dr. Ramasamy and Sylvester, my life would be considerably different. I would not be a father,” Gaff said. “I am forever grateful to Dr. Ramasamy for driving medical science and creating miracles. That is what he did for me. His hard work and dedication are changing the world.”
To express his sincere gratitude, Gaff is participating in UM’s Honor Your Doctor campaign by writing a letter of thanks to Dr. Ramasamy and sending a gift to further advance his work.
Each year, Honor Your Doctor provides an opportunity for patients and their families to let Sylvester, UHealth, and Miller School physicians know just how much they are appreciated as we approach National Doctors’ Day, on March 30.
For more information, or to leave a note of appreciation, click here.