Faith like Gavin

Gavin had been to church about six times before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age five. I have to admit, I think half of those were weddings. Being a mom to three kids within four years apart, and working full time, I often chose to relax on the weekend and not get up early to get them all “church ready” by 8 a.m. on Sundays. This does not mean I didn’t talk about God, or pray with my kids, but it means that they were not influenced by a church, and had not read the bible. I say this to help you understand how significant it is for Gavin to have the faith he does. He was not taught religion. There were not pictures of Jesus around him, which is why his story is so compelling.

When Gavin was in the hospital, beginning treatment for a brain tumor, Steve and I watched as his arm reached up. When I woke him, he said he was trying to give God a hug. Later he told us more. God is really bright and yellow, He has “curlers” in his hair (three on each side), and that He came to give Gavin a message. That message, provided a faith that was not there beforehand. Gavin said he knew it was God, but he doesn’t know how he knows that. God told him “Gavin, please be strong and brave.” This is a great message to a child suffering, and beginning treatment. But if God can do that, why wouldn’t He tell all the kids fighting cancer and other diseases every day? Even though I saw it with my own eyes, even though Gavin had such specific details about what happened, I have to admit, my own messy faith questioned it.

Except when Gavin was dying. And he didn’t die because Gavin told us he would make it. The list of problems and an aggressive tumor in Gavin’s brain told us otherwise. But Gavin, at six years-old told us “Don’t give up on me, you just have to believe.” This conviction pushed us further than we thought possible. This faith that Gavin did not learn from his parents, or a church, this faith from God Himself, created miracles. After being given months to live, TWO life-saving cures came up. Gavin is the first to beat an incurable disease. Not only that, but there were times he shouldn’t have made it through complications. Like the dangerous craniotomies, fluid building causing him to slip into a coma, ALL of his veins that drain blood from his brain CLOTTED. Yes, you read that right, ALL of them. Doctors came just to see Gavin who was just talking and being normal, while his scans showed all of the clots. They could not believe it.

It is not just one thing. It is a series of things that happened, or didn’t happen, that helps me have faith. My son is ten years old and in remission. For many months, I imagined having to plan a child’s funeral. It was the reality. Yet, I didn’t have to. After 26 surgeries, and complications, and deficits, Gavin is considered a “healthy, growing, boy”. Gavin did not get an easy miracle. He had to suffer, and fight, and nearly die. But he never lost his faith, and that resulted in an unbelievable course of events. I try every day to have faith like Gavin. Faith that does not weaken or give into fear. Faith that has the power to move mountains.


What are you going to be when you grow up?

This is a great question. It is full of hope and possibilities. As I walked past a little girl about 8 years old at the mall yesterday, I overheard an older man asking her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She began to reply and I didn’t hear what she said. Partly because I would have looked really creepy hanging out and listening, because there was nothing nearby I could pretend to be looking at to eavesdrop. Mostly though, I didn’t need to know the answer. That question made me stop and smile to myself, and that was enough. Because I thought to myself, if someone asked Gavin that today, if he were that child in the mall, he could answer it.

There was a time when that question was asked to a child that was dying. I would bite my lip and hold my breath, trying to signal to the person asking. Yet he still answered it because in his heart, he knew something the world didn’t. Despite the words spoken by his doctors, that time was running out, he believed he would grow up. For Gavin, I suppose that question meant the same to the little girl in the mall. He could imagine his future. But for me, his mother, who felt the hope draining, it was like a knife stabbing me deeply, reminding me that he won’t grow up. A simple question that brought me to reality and made breathing difficult because we had no cure.

Now that Gavin is out of treatment, for now and hopefully forever, I hope he gets asked this question every day. I will stand proudly next to him and smile at his list of things he wants to do when he grows up. Live in a mansion (good luck buddy), have ten kids (ummm, ask your wife about that), be a marine biologist by day, and get a second job if needed to support all of the kids. I will listen, knowing most of it isn’t likely, but always encouraging him to keep dreaming and pursue what he wants in this life. Because he worked really hard for it. Dream away buddy.

Strong and Brave

Four years ago, I sat in a small hospital room hearing words that seemed to play in slow motion. “Your son has a mass in the middle of his brain”, the doctor told my husband and I while Gavin watched cartoons. That night Gavin had emergency brain surgery due to increased pressure in his brain and for months following would endure chemotherapy.

After the initial shock of the brain tumor, we had to make decisions about how to fight. To prepare for the fight, Gavin had a port and g-tube placed. While recovering from surgery, Gavin slept as I sobbed in agony and pain, asking God “How am I supposed to do this?” I felt empty, alone, and afraid. As I sat there, something amazing happened.

Gavin, still sleeping, reached up with his right arm and held it there. I stopped crying immediately and time stood still as his arm was then set down next to him. My husband and I looked at each other, not knowing what to make of it. I woke Gavin up, asking him what he was doing. “Mom, I was trying to give God a hug… But YOU woke me up!”

As Gavin began treatment, he began to tell me more about this moment in the hospital. He told me that God was so bright and yellow and that he brought his light down. He said that God told him something and he will never forget it. God told him “Gavin, please be strong and brave”. Gavin would cry thinking about how calm God made him feel and would tell me he wishes he could see Him again.

After three rounds of chemo, an MRI revealed that the tumor was growing, rapidly. Our only option was surgery which was done repeatedly to save Gavin’s life but was not a cure. It got ugly, and with each setback, giving up seemed our only option. Except that Gavin had faith he would survive. He told us “Mom and dad, please don’t give up on me, I am going to make it – you just have to believe”.

Gavin was given months to live. That was over three years ago. Miracles began to unfold as we followed Gavin’s faith. Miracles that would not have been possible if Gavin did not follow God’s command.

Gavin, please be strong and brave.