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Austin Gavin with his daughter, Alexis

When Austin Gavin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February, it wasn’t the first time. He had beaten the disease before, eight years ago.

But this would be the first time he would face cancer during a pandemic.

“This time it was definitely different because I didn’t have all those other factors looming over me last time,” said Gavin. “When I was hit with cancer in 2012, the focus was on cancer. This time around, it was dealing with cancer and COVID-19. There was a lot of uncertainty.”

Gavin was at his winter home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when doctors told him his cancer had returned. He made plans to return to his permanent home in New York — where he was treated in 2012 — for radiation treatment.

But then COVID-19 began rapidly spreading through the U.S.

“New York was the epicenter for the coronavirus and I didn’t want to attempt to be treated there, knowing as soon as I left treatment each day I would be vulnerable to catching COVID-19,” said Gavin.

So Gavin did what so many of us do: He asked Google. Looking for another option, he searched “best cancer centers.” Moffitt Cancer Center  popped up.

Gavin called, made an appointment and was connected with his oncologist’s nurse, who answered his questions and gathered all of his previous medical records. The nurse even provided Gavin with his oncologist’s cellphone number in case he needed anything else.

As Gavin and his wife prepared for their drive to Tampa, they saw news alerts about state troopers closing the Florida border to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Concerned they wouldn’t be allowed in, Gavin called Moffitt. Thirty minutes later, a social worker called Gavin, prepared to speak to a trooper on his behalf if necessary.

Troopers did pull Gavin over, but they allowed him to pass once he explained the reason for his trip to Florida.

From his first appointment at Moffitt, Gavin said he knew he was in great hands. The Hope Lodge set up Gavin and his wife at an apartment near the cancer center, where he received radiation treatment for 2 ½ months.

“Having a loved one diagnosed with cancer is the hardest thing you can hear, and having to deal with it during a pandemic makes the stress 100 times worse,” said daughter Alexis Gavin. “At first, we didn’t know if coming to Tampa was the right decision, if travelling was dangerous. But at the end of the day it was the right decision, and knowing my parents were under such amazing care from Moffitt was really comforting.”

Austin Gavin returned to South Carolina in early June and will head back to New York in August. He will have to wait a few months to find out if the treatment worked but said he is optimistic.

“Dealing with life’s problems is like a house,” he said. “You have to have a lot of support beams. My support beams were my family, friends and Moffitt.”  

And if he ever needs more treatment?

“If my cancer comes back, I am coming back to Moffitt.”