Honored Kid

Gabby Cava

Gabby Cava Kid Photo


Huntington , NY, US


Signet Ring Cell Carcinoma

Date of Diagnosis

April 2018


Passed away

Treated At

Heidleberg University Hospital Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center UNC Children's Hospital

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My Story

Gabby’s Story We have referred to Gabby as Super Gabby for a long time. When she was little she was so much fun we called her the 'port-a-party'. When diagnosed, she was a normal 14-year old who loved her friends, her camp counselors, and Snapchat and Instagram, and worked hard in school.  We started noticing she was getting a bit of a belly the winter before diagnosis. We didn't care too much, she's a great kid and that's what is important. We attributed it to her love of carbs, burritos, and chicken wings, but there was a lot more going on than we initially recognized. Late in the winter before diagnosis her belly became more distended and she was losing her appetite regularly (not like her) and having a hard time keeping food down at times. We took her to the doctor, who promptly sent us to the emergency room. It was a whirlwind, but 3 days later we got a formal diagnosis of a rare type of colon cancer called metastatic signet ring cell carcinoma. Her belly was bloated because a mass was clogging things up. We are a family that sticks together, has faith in the God of the Bible, and chooses optimism. We've been through life threatening/changing stuff before and can testify to God's faithfulness and the futility of dwelling on worst case scenarios, and even though in this case we faced the worst, we still trust God and take it day by day. Sometimes hour by hour.  Early on in our battle with cancer, the kids from Gabby’s Sunday school class made her index cards with scripture verses on them. There was one that I said to her regularly. In fact, it is on the top of the stack in my kitchen right now. It’s Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. I used to say that to Gabs all the time, you are so patient in affliction. As we went on dealing with the disease, Gabby’s ability to maintain joy and have patience and accept how the scope of her life was shrinking was amazing. We had to grieve losses: loss of energy, appetite, organs. She traded her fit bit for an IV pole as we watched the cancer pull her, hunching her body down. But it didn’t pull down her spirit. Gabby knew the secret of being content where she was, and she lived her best life even with the disease limiting her. She was never defined by the diagnosis. In fact, She defied it with simple songs like, “Everybody’s got a water buffalo.” It’s by veggie tales , Check it out on YouTube. As her physical capacity got smaller her imaginative world got bigger. We’d be up in the middle of the night taking care of medical needs and giggling and making up songs. We made up songs about other animals (to the tune of Everybody’s got a Water Buffalo): “Everybody’s got a gopher pet Mine is the best one ever yet Never had to take him to the vet Everybody’s got a gopher pet… Or Everybody’s got a curly tailed pig… While in treatment in Germany we joked about our wasser buffels, just saying wasser buffel alone, cracked us up. We imagined our buffaloes Milo, Raphael, and Presley splashing in the hotel pool because they’re WATER buffaloes, of course they’d hang out in a pool which was all well and good until Raphael accidentally ripped the pool liner. I told Gabby through the whole process fighting cancer, you are being so patient in affliction and it makes God so proud that your faith is not shaken up. He is smiling on the way you’re buffaling along in this painful trial. When we were in the hospital this last time, I asked her, “Did you ever learn about the ancient Olympics?” She said, “Yeah some.” “Do you know what the prizes were for the winners?” “How would I know that?” she asked. “I don’t know I thought you might have learned about it in school. Anyway, The prizes were crowns. They were wreaths of olive branches made into a crown. And they’d give them to the winners. These days the prizes are gold, silver, or bronze medals but back then you’d get a crown. “It says in the Bible that people who keep the faith in hard trials like what you’re going through get a special crown - the crown of life. You are definitely getting the crown of life. “The winners of the ancient Olympics, their prizes were made of plants and they faded - just like a bouquet of flowers gets old and shrivels up, but you are getting a crown that won’t fade away. In heaven you are getting a crown, the crown of life.” “Is that a real thing?” she asked. “Yup, and you’re getting one. It was a real thing historically, and it will be even more real in heaven.” The next day, I texted her these different translations of James 1:12 NLT James 1:12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 ESV Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 NIV Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. Gabby stood the test, she persevered, remained steadfast, without complaint. During her last few days when it got hard again, and she had so much back, neck, and shoulder pain that Dave or I was rubbing her for hours, I would say, “You’re getting a crown, girl.” Or, I would just say, “Crown of life.” Sometimes I miss her so terribly I can feel the ache in my stomach. I make myself remember her with her knees bent up to her chin because the cancer was consuming her entire stomach cavity. I remember her confined to the couch or the bed unable to do much but play on her phone. I remember her with so many tubes coming out of her and so much pain, and I don’t want her here anymore - not like that. Then I think of her with the victor’s crown on her head. I like visualizing her that way and I am comforted. It also helps me to think of how ready she was to go home. I have taken over Gabby’s small travel suitcase. I love her suitcase. When she was little she called it a zoocase. And as she got older she still called it a zoocase for fun because Gabby loves fun. Every month for the 21 months while we battled the giant cancer monster we packed this zoocase, sometime 2-3 times a month, we packed it. A lot of the time we packed it to go to the hospital. But we packed it more for fun trips. Gabby liked to go- she is the go, go Gabby, so we went. Imagine your best vacation. What would it be? A Tropical trip? A hike in the woods? Maybe it’s one you’ve already taken? A Cruise? An exotic adventure to a foreign land? Or maybe it’s Camp Orchard Hill? Gabby’s favorite place on the planet. We who trust Jesus have a trip to look forward to. We have a Living hope. I Peter I says we have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade kept in heaven. She took the best the trip of a lifetime, and she was ready. That kid lived to go. She was packed and ready for that eternal trip. Some people spend more time prepping for a two week vacation than they spend getting ready for the biggest, best trip into eternity. She went to a paradise, a place, a city, a home better than any other. She went to a community with a fabric closer, smoother, better woven than the fast paced excitement of camper to camper to counselor relationships. She went to the New Jerusalem. She went to the church triumphant. She went to the one who has the power of an indestructible life. Jesus touched her and now she’s enjoying a living hope - kept in heaven. He touched her and now she’s running, and jumping, doing flips on the trampoline, zip lining like she used to. She’s no longer confined to the couch. And she’s wearing the unfading crown of life. And I can’t tell you how much it consoles me. We who trust Jesus have hope in two ways. We have Double Hope. We have hope for help here and now in our lifetime that God is with us and will help us. And we have a bigger and greater hope of eternal, unending life that lasts for 10, 20, 100, 1,000, forever years. I will be with her more years than I will be without her. Gabby understood this, she got it On her last morning, she said “I’m doing good.” And I said “Yes, I’m so happy, it really hurts me when you’re in pain.” She said “I know what you’re saying.” She had been hurting a lot the night before. I told her, “I am holding out for our miracle, but either way you’re not gonna be in pain too much longer.” And she said, “It’s that double hope we got.” I hope you get it too. I hope you can experience Double Hope especially when you’re missing Gabby. Let’s look forward and live with the joy, faith, and peace that she experiences. In honor of Gabby we’re starting a non-profit called Team Gabby Gives. It raises funds for kids to go to Camp Orchard Hill her favorite place in the planet and other Christian camps that she attended, or other camps kids would want to attend. Camp had a profound impact on Gabby’s life and helped her to maintain the positive attitude she did. We want to give that kind of experience to other kids. Thank you for supporting me and the more than 300,000 kids worldwide who will be diagnosed with cancer this year. By sharing the gifts of your time, talent and money with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, you're supporting research to give all kids with cancer a better chance for a cure.

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