A Mustang High School student got to ring the bell at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center to celebrate his new cancer-free life.
Gavin Peterman was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system particularly the B cells, the day after Thanksgiving last year. He called his parents, Lanney Peterman and Dawn Ice, the Thursday before Thanksgiving break to go home sick from school. His parents took him to St. Anthony Healthplex Mustang when he still wasn’t feeling well that Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This is where they found out he had meningitis, which is nicknamed “the kissing disease” but can be contracted in different ways. They also found out his blood count was at a four when it should have been between a 12 and 15.
Gavin was then transferred to Children’s. They thought maybe it was a stomach ulcer at first, before realizing it was a tumor.
Gavin’s dad, Lanney, works at Walmart so Gavin’s diagnosis put a whole new perspective on Black Friday.
“He was healthy before,” Dawn said. “He never even took any medicines besides a few ear infections when he was a kid.”
The family spent more time at the hospital than at home, and didn’t get to spend even three days at home until March. Gavin had to go through seven days of chemotherapy every 21 days, and always had to spend at least another seven days recovering before he could potentially head home.
“He did great, but it was sad,” Dawn said.
She said they got to meet a lot of people while spending their time at Children’s, but a lot of the people they met didn’t make it, and that’s why Gavin ringing the bell was such a big deal.
“Ring the bell three times and it was exciting everybody came,” Gavin said. “Almost everybody was there. It was kind of an exciting day.”
Dawn said he got to wear a suit to ring the bell, then also put on some sun glasses, and he didn’t want to take off either because he was so excited.
“You know what was my favorite part… leaving the place,” Gavin said. “Ringing the bell and leaving the place.”
Gavin is down to monthly trips to Children’s and the staff told them it should slow down even more. He also has to take antibiotics for six months to prevent the flu, will have to have surgery to remove his port, and be tested for 10 years, but other than that Gavin is done with medical procedures.
Gavin is developmentally delayed and has been diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder so he has a hard time with people and loud noises. He is in special education classes at school and had an assistant that stayed with him at school from second to sixth grade.
Gavin hasn’t gone back to school since before Thanksgiving Break because of his illness, and because his parents think he should have some time out of the hospital and at home first.
Gavin said he didn’t like the food at the hospital and that it was more horrible than being at school. Due to his disorder, you can imagine what he goes through being at a school as big as Mustang.
“He’s into his own thing, it’s different,” Dawn said. “For his Make-A-Wish, he didn’t want anything the other kids wanted. He didn’t want to go to Disney Land, Disney World, he didn’t want anything like that.”
Make-A-Wish Foundation is making Gavin a man cave in the backyard so he can have his own space and do his own thing.
Dawn is unemployed and with Lanney’s job at Walmart, she said they would have had to really invest to do anything like that for him so they thought it was great.
Make-A-Wish doesn’t do any electrical or plumbing, but Dawn and Lanney started a GoFundMe account for both so Gavin can spend time in his man cave and be able to play his video games and watch his YouTube videos, which are both Gavin’s favorite things to do.
“He watches more YouTube than TV,” Lanney said
Gavin’s favorite games are Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart, which he said he played as a child on Nintendo 64 and now plays on Nintendo Wii.
“Now still today,” Gavin said.
Gavin left for Camp Cavett yesterday, which is a camp that tries to put less focus on illnesses and lets children just be children. It will be one of his first extended stays so Dawn said she’s nervous, but Gavin’s younger brother will be with him. Before Camp Cavett, Gavin had one other extended stay to go to the Special Olympics.
Gavin said during the Special Olympics everyone wanted him to run, but he doesn’t like running.
“Always be someone faster,” Gavin said.
He said he also came close to winning the softball throw, but a boy with long and strong arms beat him.
Dawn said she’s excited for the man cave because it keeps him close, but can give him some independence.
“With special needs, he’s special, but it’s still rolling,” Dawn said. “We got their nerves just like any other kid, that’s normal.”
To donate to Gavin’s man cave, visit gofundme.com/gmzrp59g.
“I appreciate all the people that gave their prayers for him to be well,” Dawn said. “I believe it was God, and the reason Gavin’s here with us today is because God answered prayers.”