Name: Annaliese Thomas
Parents: Todd and Serah Thomas
Hometown: Lexington, KY
Type of cancer: Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis
Tell me about the moment you found out about Annaliese’s diagnosis?
Serah: I was six and a half months pregnant when the ultrasound showed a mass growing on her jaw bone. We began to visit several different doctors; we started with a dentist, pediatrician, and through the process of elimination, we got to an ENT. The CT scan showed a tumor. It was about a week from when we found out it was a tumor that we got the actual diagnosis. So, it was a very long and scary week waiting to hear about the biopsy. A lot of uncertainty. It was not the best time of life for us. We had never heard of this kind of cancer that she was diagnosed with. There were so many unknowns and we weren’t sure what it was or what would happen.
Todd: She has Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis which is the rapid growth of your body on your cells. Because of the site of it, the ENT and the doctors were a little more concerned with the devastating things it could have been. Where it was growing so rapidly on her jaw bone, we feared the worst. When we finally got the call from the ENT here at UK, he was so relieved to tell us the kind of cancer it was. The other cancers he thought it could be, would be far more devastating in terms of the approach.
Serah: Not the news you want to hear, but it was the best case scenario.
What has been the hardest part of this experience?
Todd: The hardest part of the experience was the week of not knowing what was going on. After that, probably just getting things started and not knowing how it would all go down. The doctors use the word “chemo” and it hits you as something new for our family. What will that look like? A fear of what side effects Annaliese would go through weighed heavily on my mind. How our home life would have to change. A lot of fears of the unknown but luckily once things got rolling, a lot of those went away.
How has DanceBlue impacted you?
Serah: The DanceBlue Marathon was really neat. Seeing the number of students involved was so cool. We know a lot of people personally that are involved, students from our church who volunteer. When you’re a family of the Clinic, seeing students dancing for Annaliese and raising money that directly affects our family, meant so much. It means a lot that students would sacrifice in that way. I know the marathon is a fun thing, but seeing students making a banner with her name on it and for our family, now that was really special.
Todd: I am a pastor at a church here in town and my role is overseeing college ministry and I spend a lot of time with the college students. Some of the DanceBlue Chairs were in our college ministry, so for the last couple of years we had heard about the marathon, why we should be a part of it, and often made plugs at our college gatherings. We never anticipated being one of the families. One of the students in our college ministry is a two-time cancer survivor. He spends a lot of time at our house and with our family. With Annaliese’s diagnosis, he has been particularly a huge help in processing what he went through as a kid in college with cancer. Hearing how much he cared about our family and how he wanted to help us have a great DanceBlue experience, was really encouraging. He was able to connect us with the Adopt-a-Family program, which is one of the great parts of the marathon. It has made the experience a little bit easier having students play with my other kids as well.
What DanceBlue programs has your family participated in?
Todd: The Adopt-a-Family program has been great. The girls in the sorority have checked in a lot by text or call. They got ice cream with us right before summer break. Even at the marathon, the girls were right there with them dancing on the floor and making sure they had a lot of fun. It was awesome.
Serah: I think anything with DanceBlue makes it less scary for Annaliese. At first, when she was diagnosed, every doctor and every person she didn’t know, was scary.
The Clinic doctors, nurses, and DanceBlue have made everything less scary for her.
It has become more of a fun place to be and is special for us as parents to see.
Is there anything that has provided you with comfort during this time with your child’s treatment?
Todd: For our family, faith is very important. When all this was happening, not only college students and DanceBlue, but our church, in general, showed us what a good, healthy church looks like when going through a crisis. Whether it was checking in on us, bringing us meals, or being there during this transition, it has all been a huge part of our journey. The internal foundation we have within our faith has been a big part of it.
To view, a sneak peek of Annaliese’s interview, click here: Humans of DanceBlue: Annaliese