10-year-olds often spend their time fighting bad guys in video games or bullies on the playground. But, Gavin Raab fought an enemy more powerful than any of those villains. He fought cancer. And won.
His doctors used chemo, radiation and infusions to destroy the leukemia that invaded his blood. The cancer came without a warning.
“He had a puffy, swollen face. That was it. I thought it might be mono. The first doctor we visited thought it was mono, too. Then, they ran a blood test and discovered 95 percent of his blood contained cancer cells,” Gavin’s mother, Jennifer Raab, said.
Up until that moment, the toughest competition Gavin had faced was opponents in the swimming pool. He was a regular competitor in middle school and with a club team.
The three-year-battle he was about to begin would challenge his Bloomfield Hills family more than anything they had ever tackled.
“Comprehending Gavin had cancer was like trying to eat an elephant. There’s no way you can eat a huge elephant all at once. You just have to take it one piece at a time,” Raab said.
Kate Gowans, M.D., section head, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, developed a chemotherapy plan and walked the family through each step of the treatment.
“The physical and emotional burden of this is overwhelming for patients and families. We never give up in our efforts to help them manage these challenging diagnoses,” Dr. Gowans said.
Gavin has always had a positive attitude. His mom says he never makes excuses for himself. He rarely complains about anything and he wasn’t about to let cancer change that.
“He was able to shine, despite having to walk through fire. Gavin stayed involved in activities he enjoyed,” Raab said. “He remained a straight A student.”
The physical and emotional burden of this is overwhelming for patients and families. We never give up in our efforts to help them manage these challenging diagnoses.Dr. Gowans
Right after the diagnosis, Dr. Gowans prescribed strong steroids which melted the cancer cells like butter. Multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation kept the cancer from coming back.
“Gavin is such an incredible fighter. We can use the most advanced and powerful treatments in the world to battle cancer, but a positive attitude like his makes all of our medications and treatments stronger,” Dr. Gowans said.
Gavin is now 14 years old, and the only battles he’s fighting now are in the swimming pool during his competitions.
In May, Gavin’s parents threw him a “No Mo Chemo” party to celebrate the end of his three year fight. They invited 175 people who helped him get better, including Dr. Gowans.
But the Raab family felt something was missing. They wanted a way for families to symbolically say goodbye to cancer. So, they purchased and donated a bell that was installed in the new Beaumont Children’s Skandalaris Family Center for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders.
At the end of a patient’s cancer treatment, he or she will ring the bell to celebrate.
“We thought it would be something children and families could look at every time they were in the center,” Raab said. “Gavin ran a marathon and made it to the finish line. Other kids can, too.”