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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Thursday, August 28, 2008


I think it's going to get easier; I really do. It's been a killer of a week, but I don't believe anyone would ever know that! I'm very good at being able to compartmentalize and I thank God for that! Coming home and crying while I write really has helped me.

Now that I've made it through four days of school I can say that at times seeing Christi's gentle little friends, sitting in their desks, is actually nice. Christi has the sweetest friends and I know that they will never forget her. I want to be the best teacher possible for them; it's like the only way I can pay them back for being so nice to her. While they may be afraid to say her name, and I've worried about how uncomfortable they may be with me, I've said "Christi" briefly as we are currently working on autobiographies. As I shared my examples, I explained I have two daughters. "Most of you probably remember Christi, my oldest daughter." I also told a little funny tidbit that Christi said when she was about four which made them laugh. We were reading an autobiography where the author was in trouble so his mother called him by his full name. Many of my students said that happens to them too as they shared different stories. (PIC: Christi at her first Dance Unlimited recital, 1 year old. June 1998)I told them about checking into a Chicago hotel when Christi was about four. When Shayne realized the desk clerk had a name tag that said, "Christine" he picked her up and said, "Look! She has your name!" Christi leaned forward, sized up that name tag and proudly exclaimed, "That's my 'getting in trouble' name!" It's really hard not to be envious of them and not to feel horrible for them too as I know the loss they've experienced. One day this year I may even tell them about Christi getting kicked out of day care for biting for six weeks when she was 16 months old. I think they'd find that shocking and hilarious!

Our students have a little tradition where they sign their names on each other's binders with words like "Friend" or "BFF" (Best Friend Forever) beside their name. Seeing those names on Christi's very special friends' binders nearly took the wind out of me when I saw them earlier this week as obviously Christi's name wasn't there. As the students changed classes, I told a colleague that just seeing the binders felt like a knife going through my heart. He knew I was having a challenging day and he told me, "But Christi now has new friends and these friends are the forever kind." I had to laugh at that one!

The first day I had all of my students complete a survey so that I could get to know them better and so that we could chat about it on day #2. One of Christi's friends, who used to decorate our front door when Christi was in the hospital to welcome her home, wrote something that made me bawl when I sat at the kitchen table reading them - but in a good way. The question said, "If you could go back and give yourself advice, what would that advice be?" She wrote, "Spend more time with Christi". When the girl was in near tears in my classroom the following day, I called her mom. Talking and crying with her really helped. I know many of these kids miss Christi too. Christi was so blessed with great friends, and I am too!

Tomorrow will be GRAND! I heard from Shayne after school today. He is now in Holland and will soon be on his flight home after something crazy like four countries in five days, touring plants and looking at equipment in very rural areas. I know he'll be exhausted, but he's just going to have to get over it because my sister and I have made big plans! While Shayla and I had a great week together, it's just not the same without him here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Angela's First Day with Christi's Classmates

Well, I've put off writing about it most likely because the pain is still great. And when an fellow NB Angel Mom wrote and said there could not be anything harder than that and another said my next tough day will be the last day of school, the tears fell again.

The tears started as I backed out of the driveway. Shayla asked what was wrong and in between shaking and crying I tried to explain that Christi would have been in my classes this year for reading and English and it was going to be so hard to see her friends, especially since I'm now teaching a gifted 7th grade reading class and I know exactly which class she would have been in. I think in my big babble of tears I said what I shouldn't have said something like, "It's just not fair that she didn't get to go past the fifth grade; she only got to go to four days of fifth grade. She just loved school so much and some of the kids don't like school and are mean to each other. It's just not fair." She said, "Really? I thought she went like five months or something. You're right. That's not very long." Then I realized what a horrible impact I was probably making on Shayla so I "sucked it up", got myself together and drove off. I think I should probably have received an Academy Award for my teaching performance on Monday. No one would have ever known how challenged I was! I'm still too upset and it's so painful to write about it. I'll reflect when I can.

Shayne called tonight. He's now in Glasgow, Scotland. While packing we were joking that he should take his kilt and find a Highland Games to compete in. Little did we know, it'd take 48 hours for his luggage to catch up with him and that kilt would have come in handy (hee hee)! Regardless, it was fabulous to hear his voice and I'm so thankful I can email with him. I just wish he had time to hunt down some of his long lost relatives while in Scotland! He's exhausted and said he's never had a more grueling travel schedule, going to all of these little towns and doing so much in such a short time frame. I miss him terribly and am thankful he'll soon be home!
Shay's First Day of 4th Picture
Christi's First Day of 4th Pic

Christi and friends at lunch (First Day of School, 2nd grade)
(Waiting in my classroom before school. First day of 2nd grade - FINALLY back to school after only ever attending nine days of school in her lifetime. Yippee!!)
Christi with her friends and Shayla at recess
Picture: Fall 2005, 4th grade

Shay's First Day of School

As soon as we walked into the building, we ran into Shayla's teacher. (She was going back out to her car to get a treat she baked for the students! Shayla said she knew right then it was going to be a great day!)
It was a great day for Shayla!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Got a Crush on You

Oh dear bloggers, you are very smart (or big "cheaterpants" as Junie B. Jones would say, hee hee). I didn't realize I put "Shayne in Sweden" on the picture until your moral conscience made you tell me! OOps! Well, he's moving on today to another country. If he sends any more pictures I'll be certain to remove the name of the next country! Thanks for being my teachers (and prayer warriors and cheerleaders, etc., etc., etc.)!

He did send this photo to Shayla and said: This was my bed in my hotel room in Sweden. It was the size of our couch! How was school? Is your teacher nice? Snuggle mom for me until I get home soon. My luggage still hasn't arrived.

Our favorite newspaper reporter, told me that I don't have to scan the article about Shayne's job in the "Odd Jobs" special edition of the paper last week. You can read it on-line. (Thanks, Jill!) Here's the link: (I also put the link in red above in case you want to just click there.) It's about the 8th article down entitled "Got a Crush on You"! Loved that title! Seriously, he works in the office with a computer and phone doing strategic planning and business development. They keep him as far away from heavy machinery as possible, (smile) but it sounds like he's really out there working with the rocks in the article. Shayla pictures him wearing a hard hat and driving a big dump truck around because when we go to visit him, he likes to give her a tour and they put on their hard hats and go exploring the quarry in his truck.

Monday, August 25, 2008

School Update

I'm so sorry to say I cannot yet update about the dreaded day because I accidentally left my camera at school! (And quite frankly, I'm not quite ready to hash it over and talk about it yet - how "weird" it was!)

Therefore, I'll post this photo Shayne sent us and see if anyone can correctly guess his location. I think what made today even harder emotionally was that he's on another a short trip for work. (Once again his luggage is lost! He said that the airlines gave him a white tee shirt and that was it. Funny thing is we joked about this while he was packing and trying to figure out what to wear. OK, I guess it's not too funny for him right now trying to do business with one outfit only - plus that white tee shirt - but I'm at least laughing at something today!) I always worry about him when he's gone and I thank the many wonderful neighbors, family and friends who are with me. I wouldn't have made it through the day without all of the prayers!

And thanks to the sweet and beautiful Jennifer and Olivia for sending the flowers. (I know these young girls do NOT have the $$ to do that!) Their sweet card said:

We're thinking of you most especially today. We hope the day was a gentle one. Thank you so much for sharing Christi with us. She has changed our lives forever. We love you.

Any idea what country Shayne was in in this photo? He was recently interviewed for the newspaper's "Odd Jobs" section. When I get a chance to scan it, and upload it here, I will. I don't believe I've ever said what Shayne has done for work for the past year as it's really hard to explain so maybe the article will help. Let's just say I call him my "Rock Star"!

The Time Has Come

1st grade (2002) Christi found out her teacher's favorite color was yellow so she wanted to get a basket and fill it with yellow things for her teacher, she did. That girl was creative! Two weeks later, her teacher drove to Columbus to bring Christi a boquet of yellow flowers in the hospital because her teacher found out that Christi's favorite color was yellow too. Precious!
2nd grade (2003) After missing all of first grade, second grade finally arrived and we were so happy she could go to school!
3rd grade (2004) Christi's Best Year of School!
4th grade (2005) Finally getting that favorite teacher we all had been waiting for! Shayla will enjoy that treat this year, just as Shayne and Christi did! (Caroline must have been three years old when she was Shayne's teacher! Hee hee!)
5th grade (2006) It all ended too quickly!

This year, Christi should be giving me flowers as a 7th grader. (She always wanted me to be her teacher; however, I'm willing to bet as a 7th grader that would not be something she'd want anymore. Regardless, I would have been happy to give it a whirl!)

Christi left a message for me (August 2006) while I was getting my classroom ready for school and I had to run for a quick meeting with the principal. When I came back, there was this great surprise. I'm so glad I had my camera with me and I snapped a picture of it. Her little joke with me about it was that I may love English, but she loved me! I've worried about this day since her death, and now it is here. Other than seeing her cemetery plaque (which isn't even ordered yet) I think this should be my last big hurdle. I hope so anyway!

And with that - I'm off to school! God, please be with me. Please don't let me cry in front of my students like I am afraid will happen. Let me be that teacher / actress I have had to be on occasion for my sweet students (Christi's classmates). They deserve the best! I'm really scared! Be with me, Lord! Christi, if you can, please make lots of little funny things happen today so I know you're with us all too!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Those First Morning of School Pictures

Summer Fun (July 2002) Shayla runs through the water while Christi holds the garden hose. Good times!
I didn't have the courage to go out to the cemetery today, but Shayne did. Shayla spent the day playing with the neighbors and enjoying her final day of summer. When the kids took turns running through the water from the garden hose out in our backyard, I couldn't help be reminded of another photo I had. I just wish Christi could have joined the fun here too!
1st grade (age 5) 2002 (About 10 days before diagnosis) Coloring a picture for her teacher before leaving for school.
2nd grade (age 6) 2003 (After having only attending nine days of school in her entire life, we were all so happy she lived to make it to 2nd grade! WOW! She waited so long to get to go to school! She had a great year and only missed about 40 days, due to her treatments in Philadelphia)
3rd grade (age 7) 2004 (I thank God she hardly missed any school that year, perhaps 10 days due to flying to Philly, but that was her best year!)
4th grade (age 8) 2005 (Although it may be more emotional at times, we are thrilled Shayla is going to have the same 4th grade teacher Christi and Shayne did! God is good!)
5th grade (age 9) 2006 (Sooooo hard for me to believe - and quite frankly accept - that she only lived three more weeks.)

Tomorrow I will line Shayla up outside our door and snap some shots. I won't say I will do it without tears, but I did charge the camera's batteries so I'm ready to snap at least! May God give me continued strength!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Today's family get together, with Shayne's dad's side of the family, was wonderful. (Thank you, Vicki & Shawn!) We left to head back for our home before Lowell did so that Shayne could get the fire started. When Grandpa arrived, imagine Shayla's shock to learn that she won the 50/50 - $93.00!! WOW! For a little girl who has been doing little chores for me all summer to earn money for a wii and who only had $43.00 saved so far, imagine her delight! (After Grandpa told her she won the 50/50 she said, "But I don't remember playing the 50/50. Well, apparently Grandpa bought ten tickets and put her name on them - too sweet!)

I donned my OSU hat and shirt as proper attire for tonight's bonfire. Watching it all go up in smoke, was very satisfying! Weird and crazy, I know - but it was! (PIC: Burning one of many stacks of articles, no longer needed!)

What I keep thinking about (and truly trying not to) was that the start of school turned out to be a shocker on a two occasions. After looking forward to it for so long, Christi only attended school for 9 days and then the five year old was diagnosed with cancer and she never returned that year. Then, four years later, as a 9 year old fifth grader, she only attended school for four days and she never ever returned. Perhaps that is why I am dreading the start of the school year. It brings back horrific memories, still so vivid.

I love teaching; I love our great kids! I know I'll be fine once I get there, or soon after, but my stomach and emotions are really in knots right now. About a year before Christi's disease took off, I spoke with a faculty member who lost her 6th grade son. I told her then that I worried about how I would ever go in Christi's room, or face her friends in school if she died. My colleague told me that her son's friends are what kept her going. She said she knew that they'd never forget Andy and she went to almost all of their sporting events all throughout school and has been invited to many of their graduations weddings. (Shayla and I wrapped a pretty new purple bow around "Andy's Tree" planted after his death in 1991 in his front yard and said some prayers for him on Thursday.) I hope what my colleague found comfort in may in fact give me comfort too. I know I would be hurt if I didn't get invited to their graduations. They will probably never know how very special they all were to Christi and that I feel horrible about what they had to go through because of Christi's death. It's all so wrong!

Quite frankly, I'm also concerned that Christi's friends may be uncomfortable in my classroom. I'd hate that. I don't believe I'd ever set up an atmosphere/environment like that at all, but I do have about ten pictures of Christi setting around the room and I hope they are ok with that. Oh, so much to think about. I really need to stop! Soon Monday will be over, then the first week will be over and I think once October 1st arrives, I'll be ok. I pray that is the case.
Christi's First Day of School (PIC: 2002, She passed out papers for me while waiting to go to first grade. She woke up that morning and told me her back hurt, but I told her to "suck it up" because daddy was out of town and I had to work. Oh, I've replayed that so many times in my mind. You know, years later we talked about that and she told me she took little sips of air when it hurt because she thought that's what I meant would make her feel better. Oh!!!!)
(2006 - 5th grade Open House Night, getting her desk all assembled. It wasn't until January 2007 when I asked her teacher for her stuff back. I had another teacher friend put it in a brown bag so I couldn't see it and walk it out to my van. It wasn't until Feb. 2008 that I could open up the bag and go through it. School was such a special place to Christi - a place where she excelled and felt accepted and loved - a place where she felt "normal".)

Friday, August 22, 2008

I don't know how Rock Stars party, but we went to Cedar Point for the day! It was a magnificent day spent holding hands and reminiscing about the summer. With most schools back in session, the lines were very short for the two of us. She loved the ice skating show so much that after we watched the 2PM show she asked if we could go back at four and watch it a second time, so we did. When we again sat in the front row seats, some of the "ice skating girls" (as she called them) recognized her and would give her little waves and winks - oh she loved that! We also did something we'd not done before while at Cedar Point, we took off our shoes and walked around the CP Beach. It was lovely. Our evening ended at Nonee and Paw Paw's where Shayla spent the night (and all of today) while I was back at school. I can say my classroom and my lesson plans and materials are ready. Emotionally, I am not there; I hope I can be! This weekend I'll try to quit forgetting about what we were doing two years ago and try to just enjoy Shayne's dad who is in Ohio this weekend! Oh, "traditions" are hard without Christi!

(The girls with Shayne's Dad after school. August 2006. I remember telling Lowell that night I didn't think Christi was doing well and that it was not a good thing. She started getting really tired and saying her head hurt that first week of fifth grade.)
Thank you so much everyone for your kind prayers and words! It's weird I found the actual announcement "Congratulations" to be anti climatic - after I thought about it many times and just knew I'd break down and cry if I made it, and then when I didn't - it was weird. Here's wishing you and yours a grand weekend! (Rumor has it a collection has been going on since Wednesday evening and there is going to be a "paper burning party" in our backyard....something about ditching a few hundred articles I don't think I'll ever need again - and if I do they are all now on-line anyway! Additionally, since I had to list EVERY reserach article and book I read since starting my program in an annotated bibliography form, I think I'll be able to quickly bring up what I need, if I ever do. I don't think I'll ever part with my books, but these stacks of paper need to go - except for the ones related to my dissertation topic of course. Let's just say the bonfire should be BIG! I can't wait!)
(PIC: Shay & Caroline at Open House)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


When Shayla woke up Monday morning, I told her that I was nervous about my big tests and I feel the best when I am with her. I asked her if I could please take something of hers that I could tuck in my pocket to keep close to my heart and to make me feel better. I was thinking she’d suggest a picture, but that little sweetie thought of the perfect thing – a smashed penny from her collection! I was so honored! That definitely says SHAYLA as she has filled up one little collection book and started a second, a new tradition we started right after Christi died, and that she trusted me to take a treasured penny with me – wow! I arrived about an hour and a half early to “set up” for my exam. (I was told, “Only Angela would decorate her exam room!” But I think they appreciated the snacks and the festive atmosphere perhaps helped me relax.) I took Shayla’s penny out of my pocket and captured this picture with it before my committee arrived. It says "My Lucky Penny" - she immediately knew which one to give me. It's on the cheerleader's skirt here.

Monday, Shayla also helped me gather a few “props” I wanted for my exam to “lighten the mood” and to show that I’m really a creative teacher at heart! While she was looking for certain things she inquired, “Dad asked you all of the hard questions though, right? I think this is all I can help you with today. I won’t know if you’re right or wrong with the answers you tell me if I start asking you questions.” I told her that dad did not know the answers either, but he still made up the questions. Oh, she laughed over that one saying, “Really?” She’d been listening from the backseat during our many hours of driving over the weekend while Shayne was trying to help me prepare. I said, “Yes! How many times did you hear me start off my response with, “Well, if you would have read the packet I prepared, you would not need any additional explanation.” What a hoot!

Yesterday I felt a unique sense of calmness. I cannot quite describe it, but it was not what I would expect. I could only attribute it to the special prayers being said for me from Christi’s bloggers. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! I reflected on all of the sweet notes left here on my drive down. It really, really helped!

Making the two hour drive to campus, I kept trying to review my readings in my head; however, it was almost overwhelming and everything and everyone was mixing together. I told myself that I’ve had to do really difficult things in my life and this isn’t one of them. The outcome didn’t matter; it wasn’t a life or death situation. I kept thinking back to September of 2005 when I drafted Christi’s obituary and to September of 2006 when Dr. Maris called us out in the hall to tell us Christi had a new tumor pushing her brain to the side and I nearly dropped to the floor. Selecting Christi’s casket was a killer when Andrea’s email came in telling me that I had to do it that day if I wanted to get the family picture inside like I did. After that, this should be a piece of cake! I kept trying to put it in God’s hands, but I had to laugh to myself that he was handing it right back; he didn’t want to endure the oral exams either! (smile)

I told myself I was having a run of good luck and things would continue. On Monday, I received word that a grant I wrote for a SMARTboard for my classroom was approved –Can you say, “WOW?!” On Tuesday, I received a $40.00 check and a teacher magazine to be available this fall informing me my teaching idea I submitted was published. Now it was Wednesday and I just needed one more - the BIG one – to pass my Candidacy Exams. (Oh, don’t worry, I spent that $40.00 treating myself to a pedicure on my way home this afternoon! Ahhhhhh!)

I told my advisor in advance, not to worry, but I was going to take no more than two minutes in my opening to do something a bit silly and lighthearted and not to worry, I’d then I would quickly slip back into a scholarly mode. I told her I felt I needed everyone to laugh, and laugh in a big way, to help calm me. (We had too much fun on Monday putting this together with Shayla’s little toys and a trip to the Dairy Queen.) I set this (See picture) up on the table in front of me and explained Spencer Kagan, Ph.D.’s three key elements of cooperative learning – even though this area of research had nothing to do with my four areas I felt it was a good analogy. One element is positive interdependence. I went on to briefly explain that we are all in this together and that, “your gain is my gain, my gain is your gain, or in this case, we sink or swim together.” I let them hoot it up a bit as they looked over their figurine and wondered why only one had gray hair, etc., etc.. Then with a straight face I said, “When I walk back in here around 12 o’clock today, I hope that there are still five of us smoothly sailing in this ship.” When the laughter died down, I started in.

My committee was great! I cannot believe how much fun I had and how enjoyable it was. I won’t say I wasn't scared, nor was I perfect – I was far from that, but two hours later, when I was dismissed, I went to the hallway and texted Shayne, Lori and Olivia basically with the same message, “I’ll be surprised if I don’t pass. It was actually fun.” (Now if any of my fellow OSU students are reading this, please don’t kick me, but it was fun talking about what I actually know about and have studied for so long. The time went so quickly; I know could have talked for two more hours about it.) I only had a couple of questions I don’t think I answered the best and when one professor, after going back and forth with her, finally said, “Well, there is no right or wrong answer to this issue and I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” Oh my heart fell (but I still think I have good rationale for my line of thinking there). So, in perspective, it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do so far in my life. It was tough at times, but not as difficult or as heated and interrogating as I expected. Praise be to God! Thank you dear prayer warriors!

Surprisingly, I didn’t cry then, but it felt great to hug and thank all of my committee members. (I also gave them “Payday” candy bars. They loved that!) I cut off one balloon I brought to decorate the table and gave the other four to one of the professors who has a four year old (Four balloons for a four year old I told her.) I went out and released that red balloon for Christi, the one whose own journey made me begin my journey in OSU’s Ph.D. program back in the fall of 2003. Then as I sat on the grass, watching that balloon gently and slowly float away, the tears came – no, they gushed. I think, unless I really mess up, there will be a graduation in my future – most likely in June! I just wish I could have called Christi on the cell phone today, just like I called Shayla to tell her of the glorious news.

I filed all of the paperwork, delivered it to the various buildings on campus, ate at a favorite Mexican Restaurant on High Street, picked up my season football tickets and then went to check out the new guys on campus! What do you think? If you don't prefer these, there are many others - very cool!

Finally, before picking Shayla up tonight at Aunt Marty’s (where she had so much fun) I stopped at my gorgeous BGSU friend’s home and had dinner with her sweet and beautiful family. They are absolutely wonderful! I always thought I’d stop and visit with Diane on my many trips back and forth to Columbus, but always in a hurry to get home, it never happened – until tonight. Imagine my surprise when she had a cake that said, “Congratulations, Angela”. Simply, shocking! It was her first day of school today too. She’s amazing! After seven years of taking care of her own precious children, she is back in the classroom and I am so happy for her! I know she is a great teacher and her school district is so lucky to have her!

In reflection, I have to chuckle and remind myself of the humor associated with a doctorate degree. I am reminded why a Ph.D. is a terminal degree – it either means “the end” or it kills you. I guess I’ll just go with “Piled Higher and Deeper” because that’s sort of how I feel after talking on and on about my four areas this morning, hee hee! Seriously, it feels wonderful to be an “ABD” (OK, not real lingo, just something we joke about – that stands for “All But Dissertation”).

What’s next with wrapping up the degree? I have some modifications to make on Chapters 1 & 3, I need to ask three Professors to serve on my dissertation committee, and then we need to have our first meeting. It’s expected, once I receive the OK from the IRB, I’ll conduct my research this fall, analyze the data in the winter, write my final two chapters in the spring, and have my oral defense. Graduation should be in “the shoe” in June. I am incredibly grateful and filled with elation! Thank you dear Lord! Thank you sweet Prayer Warriors!

What's next on a personal level? (Shayne will choke and be in shock reading this, but....) I want to run a 5K. (OK, jog a 5K.) I've been trying to jog every day for the past four weeks. It's not been pleasant, but I know it's best for my health. And I want to write that "Christi Book". I've been thinking about it this summer. I don't want it to be a rehashing of her story in a descriptive format - her website has told that. I don't know if I want third person narrative, or to use things from her diaries and tell it from her voice. There are many things to think about and a lot of work ahead, but I think it'd be a very special tribute to her and would help with my healing. OK, and I know, I know, I also have to order that grave marker I keep saying I need to do next quarter, next quarter. It's just so "final" - yuck!

I apologize for the lateness of this update. I know I jokingly told my friends if there was no update then I threw myself in front of a bus on High Street, but we just got home.

There will be no blogging for me tomorrow; tomorrow Shayla and I are partying like Rock Stars! Then I start back to work on Friday – yikes! What happened to summer? (Smile.)

With gratitude and appreciation,
Angela Thomas, A.B.D. (Just Joking) make that Ph.D. CANDIDATE! (Wow! I cannot believe it!)