June 15, 2012 is a date that will never fade from the memories of Dan and Katie Strand. One day after Gavin’s first birthday, Gavin’s parents, Dan and Katie, took their son to a routine pediatrician visit. During the visit, the doctor noticed Gavin looked pale and heard a heart murmur she hadn’t heard before. When Gavin’s blood work came back, Dan and Katie started an unimaginable journey with their son.
Dan and Katie share their experience as parents to a child diagnosed with Leukemia:
We can remember our pediatrician asking us to sit down. We were holding Gavin on our laps and we knew whatever she was going to say wasn’t going to be good. When she said, “I think Gavin has Leukemia,” our hearts dropped. Not knowing much about childhood Leukemia, I asked if he had a chance…I was trying to figure out how to ask the question without using the “d-word.”
They sent us immediately to Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. There, Gavin was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Processing the news was devastating and the life we had imaged for our child seemed out of sight.
When Gavin was first born we couldn’t wait to watch him grow and hit every milestone along the way. After Gavin was diagnosed we feared the worst while praying for the best. We were so afraid we would never see him ride a bike, go to school, play baseball, graduate, and get married. Every dream we had for him was put on hold.
Signing papers for Gavin to receive chemotherapy was an especially difficult moment for us. But we knew we had to trust the doctor’s treatment plan in order to get him healthy again.
Part of Gavin’s treatment involved steroids, once every three weeks. The steroids caused mood swings and an overall uncomfortable feeling that made Gavin miserable. There were many days we would just sit and cry with him because there was nothing we could do to make him happy. We cherished every moment (and every smile!) when he wasn’t on steroids.
Gavin was declared in remission on July 19, 2012. He had to continue treatment for two more years to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. He officially finished treatment in July of 2014. The moment Gavin finished treatment was emotional. We were so happy for Gavin to start this new chapter of his childhood that we had a big “No More Chemo” party for him to celebrate with our family and friends.
We cannot put into words how much Dana-Farber means to our family. They didn’t just take care of Gavin; they took care of our whole family. The Jimmy Fund Clinic celebrated birthdays, holidays, and every milestone. They did anything to bring a smile to us and the other families there. Every time we left, we had more hope and reassurance that carried us through until the next appointment.
We always said from the moment Gavin was diagnosed that we wanted to not only bring Gavin home healthy, but we wanted to help other kids and families like us. Sitting in the hospital room, we saw a sign for the Jimmy Fund Walk and decided this is what we needed to do. It gave us something to focus on and helped us heal. It is a way to give back to a place that did so much for our family.
Today, Gavin is doing amazing! He is checked every 4 months at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic and his heart is checked yearly. Gavin turned 5 in June and is very excited to go to kindergarten in the fall. We cannot imagine our lives without Gavin. The Jimmy Fund kept our family whole. We are forever grateful.
Dan and Katie Strand