Support For Christi Thomas

This blog is to help offer support to the Thomas Family and their daughter, Christi, in her battle against cancer. Please visit Christi's website at to learn more. There, you'll find journals, photos and a lots of other information about this amazing child and her family.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Ten Years Ago Today......

Ten years ago this morning, in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Christi exhaled her final breaths as Shayne and I held on to her and told her what an incredible girl she was. While we were thankful that her horrific pain and suffering finally ended, we knew we'd mourn for her the rest of our lives. Nothing that I have – not the beautiful and cherished daughter, nor the beloved and adoring husband, nor my loving family, nor my amazing career, nor the marvelous travel adventures I experience – can ever make the slightest dent in the loss of my daughter. But her loss is the greater. Christi had to endure tremendous pain, constant disappointment, and ultimately she had to leave a remarkable sister, family, friends and teachers; her dreams never to be realized. Her life was taken too soon. I think about her every day and some days - usually holidays and anniversaries, are much worse than others. I often wonder what Christi would be like at 19 and if she really knew how loved, important and treasured she was.
For those of us who wear this invisible badge – the parents of dead children, our grief never ends. Over the past ten years, I've learned each person trudges along his or her own solitary path. The blight of losing a child is different for every person afflicted. I've experienced a wide range of emotions. I still sometimes struggle with sadness and anger, and find myself envious of parents who have healthy children, especially when those children don't appear to be wanted or well-taken care of. I know envy and anger are horrible emotions and ones I never experienced until Christi was diagnosed with cancer, but they still overwhelm me at times and I blink away tears trying to deal with it all. 
And although Shayla has blossomed into the most incredible, intelligent and loving 17-year old gal, she struggles too. Despite her outward appearance and decision to have a positive attitude and sunny disposition, I know things aren’t always bright on her inside. I'm thankful Shayla is still that same beautiful soul with a heart of gold who jumped into my arms, buried her head in my shoulder and sobbed ten years ago tonight after we made the ten hour drive home and told her that Christi didn't pull through this time. My heart breaks that Shayla doesn't have a sibling. Next to Christi suffering the ultimate, Shayla suffers the greatest loss. I find myself trying to shield and protect her from the pain when people talk about doing something with their sister/s, something Shayla will never be permitted to enjoy or grow old with. 
Sadly and shockingly, the survival rate for stage IV neuroblastoma when diagnosed over the age of 36 months, has not improved since Christi was diagnosed 14 years ago this month. It is still a death sentence. Last week Shayla wrote an essay and I will share a part of it: “The reality is over the past thirty years only three new drugs have been approved for use in treating childhood cancers, compared with hundreds of drugs developed for adults. This disparity results from a profound lack of funding. Pediatric cancers receive less than 1% of government funding for the NCI (National Cancer Institute) and in the private sector, pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to develop treatments for children.” Therefore, I write -- If you have a few extra dollars and find it in your heart to give, please consider donating to one of our family's favorite causes for research for pediatric cancers, Alex's Lemonade Stand. 
Ten years ago this morning I gathered Christi's things and made a social worker promise me she would not to leave Christi's lifeless little body until the funeral home workers came for her. Then we cleaned out our room at the Ronald McDonald House, donated Christi’s awesome special stroller, and drove home from Philly. I remember stopping for a bathroom break and we made ourselves buy a sandwich to split knowing we had a lot to do and needed food even though we couldn't imagine ever being hungry again. As I stood and held the door open for people coming out of the fast-food establishment, I remember thinking, "They have no idea my daughter died a couple of hours ago and I'm standing here holding the door for them, trying to smile. This is just crazy." Today, please do a random "Christi Kindness". This was something talked about at her funeral based on the fact that even though Christi was fighting a terminal beast, she would often to do things for the "sick kids" -- taking them art projects, reading them stories, or giving them drawings she made to make them happy. Despite not feeling well, as she often felt, she still wanted others to smile. Let's all try to do a random "Christi Kindness" today in honor of a brilliant little blonde with an infectious smile and laugh, and with whom I hope to reunite with this precious little soul in a much better place one day. May God watch over and bless everyone. Thank you for loving Christi – and all of us!

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Overdue Update

Again I did not realize it had been so long since I last updated so here goes:

Everything was very exciting with Shayne's campaign for Seneca County Commissioner in March.  He won his election (I think he won every town and every precinct in the county except for one which he lost by only about 8 votes.) He will take office on January 3, 2017 and I think he will do a fabulous job!  I'm so proud of him.

After earning 20 peer-reviewed publications, making 25 state and national conference presentations, and earning some awards for my teaching as a professor, I earned tenure and was promoted as a tenured professor at BGSU in May.  It was something I had worked for (and worried about) every day over the past seven years so this was a tremendous relief and joy for our whole family.  Next to my family there is nothing I love more than my teaching and I am so humbled to be a professor at BG so it was incredible to be rewarded for my work and to now be a tenured professor.

Christi would have turned 19 on May 12th.  A few days earlier, I took 18 BGSU students to study in England for ten days so on Christi's birthday my students were in an acting workshop at the Globe Theater in London.  While tears pour down my face, I just had to look at my lovely students and think that's exactly how old Christi would be and they were doing exactly what our little "theater lover" would want to be doing too so I just had to wipe away my tears and give my students my all since their moms were back in the states and I wanted to be a wonderful substitute "mom" for them while on their trip.  (Picture below: with my awesome BGSU students in England, May 2016)

One of my sweet students put together a little video clip of our trip so if you want to check it out, here is the link:  DrAngelaThomas_BGSU_England_Trip   (So if you watch the video clip, yes, indeed Shelby did see David Beckham and I have a picture of him dropping his little girl off at school.  Shayne was able to go with us on the trip and I'm in the midst of planning a return trip next summer.)

We've been blessed with an amazing summer.  Shayne and I have gone on a lot of bike rides and hikes.  We've taken in a lot of theater and have done a lot of reading.  I taught four summer courses and I've gotten ahead with all of my fall classes and some new projects I'm taking on this year at the university.

Shayla took some classes and performed in five "sold out" shows of Disney's "The Little Mermaid" the 18 & under "teen" musical up with 3B productions in Maumee.  She met new friends, learned new things, went up in a hot-air balloon, and had an absolutely wonderful summer.  Yesterday their production of "Little Mermaid" was selected as one of just two who will go to state in a few weeks so we had a very exciting day of theater and we are looking forward to their next performance.  (Seeing Shayla perform as a "tap-dancing" seagull is an absolute hoot!  Here is the video link if you'd like a little peek; Shayla is the dancing gull who accidentally loses her hat while dancing so you'll be able to find her, lol.)  Video_Clip_of_Shayla's_Tap_Dancing_Seagul_Number_Little_Mermaid_3B_Productions

We recently had Shayla's Senior pictures taken by her (and Christi's) first grade teacher.  (The sweet woman who used to come to our home, when Christi was in her class to tutor her at night.)  It's hard to believe Shayla will soon start her Senior year of high school.  Time has gone by so quickly.

Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful summer!  Take care and be well!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I didn’t realize I hadn’t updated for so long.  Here goes:

About a week before Christmas we flew to Santiago, Chile where we spent a couple of days before boarding a Princess cruise ship for an 11-day cruise which sailed around the Cape Horn.  We were able to see adorable penguins and walk in the southernmost city in South America, commonly referred to as the “End of the World” (Ushuaia, Argentina).  We were about 1,000 miles from the South Pole.  From there we sailed back up to Buenos Aires where we disembarked and spent a few days before flying home.  Shayla did a really good job of speaking Spanish.

Shayla turns 17 tomorrow!  She had her third annual “Lemon Ball Dance Party” – a fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Fund (pediatric cancer research).  She wanted to raise $1700 for her 17th birthday, but instead she raised just under $4,000!  We were shocked!  The ball was a blast for the kids and I must admit that Shayne and I loved it too!

Currently, Shayne is running for County Commissioner.  The election will be held on March 15th.  Living through what we have left Shayne forever changed.  He wants to give back and to serve others in our community.  He wants to leave this world better than he found it.  Shayne has been having a ball campaigning.  He goes door-to-door talking with voters and making small speeches at various events.  So far I think he’s knocked on over 1500 doors and he’s walked over 100 miles.  I must admit it’s wild to see his face on billboards around the area and to see yard signs with Shayne Thomas printed on them.  They catch me off guard as I think, “Hey!  I know that sweet guy!”  Lots of fun! 

Works is going really well for me! Once every four years, my college gives an "Excellence in Teaching" award to a faculty member. I was incredibly humbled late last summer to be nominated for this award and I quickly got all of my materials around for the submission. I was incredibly surprised and thrilled this fall when it was announced I was selected as the winner.  I was happy to get the $1,000 check and a plaque showed up in our School of Teaching & Learning's office where it will hang for the next for years. Since my arrival at BGSU as a full-time assistant professor in 2009, I've made 25 national conference presentations, published 19 peer-reviewed articles, and taught 1,326 BGSU students in 65 courses.

Thanks for checking in!  Thanks for loving Christi and all of us!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Happy Holidays from the Thomas Team!

Our hometown has a Victorian Weekend Celebration each year.  For the Victorian Dinner fundraiser, held at the Great Hall on the campus of Heidelberg University this year, all were encouraged to dress up.  We rented some costumes and had a ball- all the while raising money for a great cause!  Merry Christmas!  
Picture:  Shayne, Angela, Shayla and her friend

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Vacation in Europe

In mid-June we flew to London, rented a car and drove to Oxford where we spent four lovely days as a family before settling Shayla into her dorm room at the University and leaving her. She was in a group of 75 high achieving 16-18 year olds from around the globe who spent two intense weeks studying things like philosophy, psychology, debate, etc. at a summer academy.  There were four students from the USA there and students from 30 different countries. Shayla's sweet roommate was from Norway.  While Shayla was in Oxford, we then explored the Cotswolds, especially enjoyed Burford and Stratford-Upon-Avon (Shakespeare's birthplace).  Then we flew on to Ireland and spent two weeks biking from village-to-village and staying at lovely B&B's and the amazing Ashford Castle for two nights.  It was a sign from God that we were able to meet up with our Philadelphia friends (the Grants) and huge Christi supporters when we were in Ireland and we enjoyed a lovely day with them.)  When we flew back to London for Shayla's graduation in Oxford we were surprised and happy to learn that she was appointed Valedictorian of her class and she gave a lovely speech.  We wrapped up our three week vacation with time together in London.  Our highlight was bring "groundlings" at the Globe theater. After coming home for two days, we took off to Macinaw City, Michigan where Shayla spent a week with friends and we were blessed to spend the week with our sweet Webby (Eric) and his wife at their cottage in northern Michigan.  Now we are back home and filled with great memories!  God is good!
Shayla and her roommate at "The Boat House" outside of Oxford for the Mascarade Ball.

Shayla and her roommate (from Norway) enjoyed Bristol, England on a day off of campus.

Touring the Warner Brothers Studio, outside of London was a huge hit for our little Harry Potter fan.  I could only laugh when she ran out the battery on her audio tour guide and had to get it replaced.  She spent FIVE hours enjoying it all.  (Shayne and I spent some time waiting for her in a cafe.)

Shayla made friends with girls from around the world during this amazing experience she had in Oxford, England.

Back from Europe and now enjoying Macinac Island, Michigan - lovely!

Cannot even believe we were blessed to spend two nights here, but we did!  WOW!

Shayla's arrival on campus.

Shayla in her dorm room at the university.

What a God event to learn the Grants would be in Ireland at the same time.  It was fabulous to get to spend a precious day with them all.  Lovely, people!

Biking with my bane on the largest Arlan Island -  Ishimor

Cycling up to our "home" for the next two days was a dream come true!  I still can't believe we stayed here.  It was amazing!

Lovely cycling, so scenic!

Proud moment!  Shayla, the Valedictorian, after graduation with the Headmaster and Assistant Headmaster.

We had lots of rainy days in Ireland.  Good thing we packed our ponchos!

Shayla made so many friends and learned so very much!  It was the experience of a lifetime for her.  What a blessing!

We had a ball being "groundlings" at The Globe Theater and enjoying, "Measure for Measure".  Earlier that same day we sat in seats and took in "As You Like It".

Gotta love those London taxis - impressive!  Photo by Shay Shay

Shayla captured this lovely photo of the grounds at Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill.  She went with her school.  Shayne and I enjoyed it another day, on our own.

At our first inn in Oxford, The Bath Hotel.  Great location, tiniest room EVER!