Gavin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was eight years old. His treatment protocol was 39 months of the toughest chemotherapy. Throughout, he tried to stay as active as possible, continuing to swim competitively and moving up to a regional swim team, despite neurological problems in his legs caused by chemo. He was training ninety minutes a day just six weeks after beginning chemo and between blood transfusions. Unable to develop power in his kick for freestyle, Gavin focused on butterfly where the power is more from the core than the legs. Despite being out of the pool for months at a time, he won more then a few races during treatment.
Gavin was determined to do his best, whether it was in swimming, keeping up with schoolwork, in spite of being out of school for almost of three years, or being cooperative with his treatment. His attitude was – whatever it takes. The first year and a half of treatment was the usual hair loss, nausea, and cyclic vomiting. but then, it got much worse. Gavin endured six months of extreme complications, and ultimately, with his liver failing, he was forced to end his treatment a year early.
Coming off treatment, Gavin was determined to reach the highest levels as a swimmer. He quickly developed severe respiratory issues when swimming indoors, where most training and competition occur. Gavin was back for more doctors and medications, one of which made him clinically depressed. After three months, he was diagnosed, with a late effect of his chemo that made it impossible for him to swim indoors, and thus competitively. This realization was his lowest moment, after everything he had already been through cancer robbed him of what he held on to during his years of treatment.
Just five months after Gavin’s last chemo treatment, while still suffering from neurological issues, he participated in a USA Luge screening event near his home in Vermont. Just having heard of the event a few days before, he loved his first taste of sliding, on wheeled sleds down a nearby hill. Then came the physical testing, and he was embarrassed as he could not keep up with the other kids. He was eleven years old, but he ran like he was six. He left dejected.
The USA Luge coaches saw something different, in this coachable and determined kid, and Gavin was thrilled to soon receive an invitation to a screening camp at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid. Gavin grabbed every opportunity he could find to slide, traveling to Lake Placid whenever there was track time available. Just six months later, he was named to the USA Luge Junior National Development Team. In his first year on the National team, Gavin won silver at the 2015 Empire State Games, placed 5th at Nationals in Youth B (under 15) and won gold at the 2015 Les Mayers Memorial Classic.
In February 2016, just 32 months after his last chemo, Gavin won the USA Luge Youth B National Championship. Gavin completed the 2017 season as the fourth seeded Junior (under 21) in the country.
After luge, Gavin hopes to attend medical school and become a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. Now in eighth grade, Gavin is a top student and training for the 2022 Olympics.