Gavin Hill grew up just like most young boys. Put a ball in his hand, and he’s going to play his hardest.
“Some kids fall in love video games or whatever, but mine was sports,” he said.
Gavin was living a relatively normal life with a big dream of being a college athlete. But in 2014, one word instantly changed his “normal” life.
“When you think of people having cancer you think, oh god, that’s really really scary,” he said.
It was September when Gavin first started feeling stomach pains, throwing up, and getting high fevers. When they didn’t go away, he started to seek answers.
“A CT scan showed a mass in my abdomen,” he remembered.
A mass with the name of neuroblastoma, a form of cancer rarely found in children over the age of four.
“I didn’t understand how serious it was gonna be,” he said.
Gavin’s life immediately switched from determination to compete to determination to survive.
“I thought was gonna be pretty rough, and it was pretty rough,” he said.
On Oct. 14, 2014, Gavin went through his first round of chemotherapy. While most young boys are growing in middle school, his weight dropped immensely, along with other physical changes.
“When I first saw him again, I could barely recognize him,” mentioned his friend and teammate Riley Sullivan. “I was like – who the heck is that? He was skinny, bald of course.”
His support extended from North Davidson to the Piedmont Triad to the entire state of North Carolina as he endured six round of chemo.
“It was amazing what happened in this community,” emphasized head coach Brian Flynn. “It just rallied together for that family.”
In late January 2015, Gavin had his tumor removed in an 11-hour procedure. It was the size of half a fist.
Gavin got to do what every kid with cancer dreams of — ring the bell that symbols being cancer free.
And then, he got to get back to what he dreamed of — playing in a baseball game in March 2015.
“I ended up getting a hit at my first at bat and that was pretty crazy,” he remembered.
From one hit to hundreds more, Gavin has spent the past six years polishing his skills to try and make it to the next level. The word “cancer” was one of the distant past.
“With neuroblastoma, there’s a certain point where it’s your golden year and usually there’s not a big chance of you relapsing after that, and I hit that mark,” he said.
Earlier this year, Gavin’s life revolved around training to be the starting quarterback at North Davidson High. But he had a brief hurdle to overcome.
“I had a lymph node swell up in my neck,” he explained. “Two days later, I got COVID, so we kind of just thought it was a lymph node from COVID.”
Only it turned out, the hurdle wouldn’t be so brief.
“I had a sad moment at the beginning,” he said. “Honestly, not really when they told me I had cancer again. It was when they told me I wasn’t gonna be able to play football.”
“To be devastated probably was an understatement when I found out the news,” Flynn added. “It was tough.”
While his army of support may be anxious or worried, the one whose battle will be the hardest is the one who fears the least.
“He keeps telling these guys, guys, I’m going to be OK. Guys, don’t worry about me. I’m going to beat this,” Flynn said of Gavin.
“I’m not the sick kid,” Gavin emphasized. “I can do that stuff.”
Most won’t have to battle cancer. Even fewer will have to battle it twice.
“I know what it’s like already,” he said. “I know what to expect. I know what I can do to maybe not feel so bad.”
To Gavin, cancer isn’t an excuse to give up his dream. In fact, it pushes him even harder to accomplish it.
“I want to be able to play college sports,” he said. “I want to be able to show people that I’m the athlete. I’m a great athlete, and I’m gonna continue to be that athlete.”