Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Gavin’s Story

At the age of seven, Gavin has endured more medical procedures than most will in a lifetime. Diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma—in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic—he has faced relapses, multiple rounds of chemotherapy, a stem-cell transplant, immunotherapy, and radiation, which have led to countless nights in the hospital for him and his family. Gavin is now seen at University of Iowa Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for high-risk cancer treatment plan, which can be challenging, demanding, anxiety-provoking, and scary.  The intensity of his diagnosis and treatment requires numerous and prolonged hospital stays, which leads to additional isolation. As a family of 6, with Gavin’s older brother, and two younger sisters, Gavin’s mom and dad live in overdrive as they balance medical treatments, travel, homeschooling, work, and daily life with four young children.  

In the fall of 2022, a bright spot appeared as Team IMPACT entered Gavin’s life. He was matched with the University of Iowa Football Team, and in a short amount of time, was able to bond deeply with his teammates. Gavin experienced a behind-the-scenes football facility tour, meet-and-greet with his teammates, and enjoyed lunch after their practice.   

As Gavin is immunocompromised and at high risk for infection, his teammates have taken the lead to involve him in activities in ways that work for his unique situation. Last month, they coordinated a visit to the hospital during one of Gavin’s week-long inpatient stays. The Hawkeyes chatted with Gavin’s family and played some very competitive video games.   

Most recently, Gavin had lunch with his guys, Jayden and Jake. There was a debate about the best color—blue or red. As he starts to lose his hair for the fourth time, Gavin wanted to dye his hair while he has the chance. With the debate tied, his hair is half red, half blue, as means of honoring two of his favorite Hawkeye teammates! During this difficult time, when  daily life is often centered around appointments and treatments, these rare moments of camaraderie and bonding alleviate Gavin’s and feelings of isolation and give him time to just be a kid and enjoy the friendship that comes with being part of a team.