By Lizette Robles - June 18, 2021
For the Woodward family, working at Moffitt Cancer Center has become a family affair.
Paul Woodward started working at the cancer center in April 1989. Wife Gina joined the team in July 1993. Three decades later, daughter Tabitha followed in her parents’ footsteps launching her career in December 2018.
Paul is the manager of Moffitt’s Supply Chain Analytics. Gina works on the Physician Marketing team as an outreach specialist. Tabitha is an associate grants administrator in the Department of Clinical Science Program Management.
“Tabitha has always been my Monkey,” Paul shared. “When she was hired at Moffitt, I felt old, but so proud! I can remember bringing her to work to show her off when she was first born, and now she is contributing to Moffitt’s mission alongside her mother and I.”
“I grew up in this hospital,” Tabitha said. “I found a love of science in this hospital. When I got older, I joined the volunteer program. I think it’s substantial to find work that feels fulfilling and allows you to see the contribution that each team member makes towards the larger sum. Here, you know that what you do, no matter what it is, makes a difference in some way.”
Though the Woodward’s roles are vastly different, one thing they have in common is a deeply personal connection to cancer.
In 2017, Paul was diagnosed with stage 1 renal cell carcinoma or kidney cancer.
“I wasn’t prepared to hear those words or even suspected something like this could happen to me,” Paul said. “I immediately thought, I’m going to die. It was the longest drive back to work and then having to tell my wife. It was very overwhelming with all the unknown at the time; I had so many questions.”
The news was devastating for Tabitha.
“It was an absolute punch in the gut,” Tabitha recalled. “That awful ‘C’ word insinuates so many what-ifs that can send you into a spiral. I was immediately terrified upon hearing it.”
Paul underwent treatment at the very place where he spent most of his professional career.
“Fortunately for me, my amazing wife Gina was able to get me in to see Dr. Philippe Spiess here at Moffitt and he was just amazing!” Paul shared. “He sat down with me, explained everything and told me, ‘Everything’s going to be fine.’ He could tell I was scared, but his approach and care made me feel hopeful and in great hands. Once I was admitted into Moffitt, I felt as if I was its only patient. I cannot say enough about our incredible nursing staff. They were a God send especially during some of the rougher times I went through during my stay.”
In true Woodward fashion, Paul prevailed and looked to conquer his next monumental task: earning his bachelor’s degree in management and organizational leadership.
“I was diagnosed my very first semester of going back to school,” Paul said. “My first thought was to quit, but Gina supported me and kept me going. She made me see that it was even more important now not to give up and open doors to help fight against cancer.”
In May 2021, Paul accomplished his goal when he walked across the stage at St. Petersburg College to receive his diploma with his wife, daughter and son Sammy there cheering him on.
“I ugly cried happy tears,” Tabitha shared. “I was so proud that he managed to do this through all the hurdles that have been thrown his way over the last four years, all the while remaining steadfast in finishing.”
Paul and Tabitha share a unique bond, so much so that Gina calls them “the twins.” The father-daughter duo has shared many special memories together, many involving their love of music.
“Music is the core of our family and all my best memories are rooted in it with my dad,” Tabitha said. “I think a particular favorite is from a Father’s Day outing in June 2018. It was the first Father’s Day after his cancer treatment and recovery, and I remember being scared the year prior about what that day would look like. It was just my dad and I and we went to one of our favorite record shops in St. Pete for an event. I remember it being a frenzy in there that day, music blasting, tons of people - it was a blast. I was so excited and relieved that I had him there with me to enjoy it.”
The one piece of advice Paul has for his kids: never give up.
“Always give 100% with anything that you start, be thoughtful and considerate of others and be thankful and appreciative for what we have been blessed with,” Paul said.
This life lesson is one that Tabitha now lives by.
“I’m most grateful to him for instilling passion and drive in me from the start, in all things, whether it be for the work you do or hobbies you love,” Tabitha said. “I’m also grateful that he is always up for a day of digging through record crates. Not many others will want to stick out the heat of a warehouse filled with dusty boxes just to find the perfect press after four hours of sorting. But a true music lover like PDub never needs to be convinced. He’s my record shopping buddy for life!”