Gabrielle Nave

For much of her young life, Gabrielle Nave has battled illnesses. At age 10, Gabrielle was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a cancer in her bones. She often had imaging scans of her bones to see if the cancer was returning or spreading.

When she was 15 years old, a routine imaging scan showed an unusual cyst on her thyroid. Also, Gabrielle’s hormones were imbalanced, causing her to gain some weight and have cold feet. More testing and a biopsy revealed a scary diagnosis – thyroid cancer. The frequent imaging scans earlier in her childhood had exposed her neck area to increased radiation, probably contributing to her developing thyroid cancer. Gabrielle’s oncologist referred her to Dr. Emad Kandil, chief of endocrine and oncological surgery with Tulane Health System.  

Because Gabrielle had a cancerous nodule on the left lobe of her thyroid, Dr. Kandil performed a robotic transaxillary thyroidectomy to remove the cancer. What was unusual about the surgery was that Dr. Kandil used robot technology and the surgery was done through a small, hidden incision in the crease of her armpit.

The surgeons of Tulane Health System specialize in using minimally invasive or laparoscopic techniques and a robotic surgical system to better care for patients. They have pioneered minimally invasive procedures for more than two decades. These surgery techniques can replace large-incision, or open, surgeries for less pain, smaller scars, minimal blood loss, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery time. Dr. Kandil has the most experience in the country with these techniques, and many patients will come from outside of Louisiana to undergo this procedure at Tulane.

Most thyroid surgeries are done through an incision at the bottom of the neck. Dr. Kandil wanted to spare young Gabrielle, who already had scars on her body from previous procedures, from any more incision scars that could be easily seen.

“Because the thyroid surgery incision was going to be near my face, having the surgery done through a crease in my upper arm sounded like a much better option,” Gabrielle said. “I was sore for two days after the surgery. About 10 days later, I was fine and went back to home school studies for freshman year of high school.”

Later that spring, Gabrielle attended the Prom of Champions in New Orleans, an unforgettable night for teenagers diagnosed with cancer or blood disorders. She wore a sleek black gown with silver rhinestones and brought her sister and a friend along.

“It was an amazing experience! My dress was donated to me and I got to ride in a limo. Celebrities were there and it was really fun,” said Gabrielle, who has attended the event for a few years.

Now, life is back to normal for Gabrielle, who lives about an hour north of New Orleans. She has no restrictions on activities. Gabrielle enjoys practicing art and make-up. While she tries to eat healthy foods, she also likes to be in the kitchen cooking and baking, and she loves trying out new restaurants. Gabrielle is considering attending culinary school after she finishes high school.