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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Friday, December 18, 2009

That's All Now - the Graduation Day

I heard a cow bell ringing when I entered the arena, looked up and waved, but had no idea it WAS SHAYLA! When Gil sent this picture down to me on the floor, I nearly laughed out loud. She's typically a very well behaved, politely mannered little lady. But I guess she was so proud of her mom. And I'm so proud of her. She recently wrote: I am thankful for pets, family and education. I'm thankful for her! And for Christi. I used to sometimes think it would have been better if Christi had never been born because I would not know such pain, yet now I've come to realize I would not know true love if I didn't know true loss like I do.

Angela's Little Speech for Luncheon (to be read by Jenn on my behalf because I will cry)

I wanted you all to know how grateful I am to you. Without your help, I would not be graduating today. I will forever be filled with gratitude. Thank you very much!

First of all, to my esteemed doctoral advisor, Dr. Mary Jo Fresch (pin coursage on Dr. Fresch) who guided me through my years of the doctoral program and who believed in me when I questioned myself, thank you! Dr. Fresch provided me with constant reassurance. I owe her deep gratitude for supporting me, encouraging me and assuring me with her expertise and insight throughout my various endeavors over the years. I’ve been incredibly blessed with an outstanding advisor, professor, role model, cheerleader and friend.

To Tony & Corinne, our cousins: Thank you allowing me to overnight in your beautiful home, so close to campus, many times throughout my journey. It was a special blessing for me to be already in Columbus when I had my most important exams, interviews and classes, especially in the wicked winter weather.

To my sister, Tina: On many of my long drives home from campus, I’m so glad you took my calls and helped me pass the time. I adore you and your precious family so much. Thanks for being here with me today. It means so much to me!

To Jenn & Traci, our strangers turned friends we met at COSI just days before Christi was diagnosed with cancer: I will never forget having a required interview and orientation session for a special literacy program I wanted desperately to participate in the midst of my doc program. It was 2006. If accepted, it would be a huge blessing for our family as it would allow me to take a few on-line classes, providing me with more precious time at home with the girls instead of driving for so many hours. On the day of my required interview and orientation session at Ohio State, I realized I had to get Christi to Philadelphia, because her blood counts came back terribly low that morning at the hospital before school.
During my lunch break, I booked our flights. After school, I took off with Christi to Ohio State where sweet Jenn met us on campus and whisked Christi away to COSI (one of her most favorites places) where, despite feeling miserable, she had a ball with Jenn & Traci until I picked her up after my interview and somehow got us to our flight on time. Upon our arrival in Philadelphia very late that Friday night, Christi was admitted to the hospital and I was so grateful our friends cared for Christi so that I could get into a program that would allow me to actually finish my degree at a time when I was seriously contemplating dropping out. Without my acceptance into that program, I’m positive I would not be graduating today. I was very near the point of giving up during that time because I didn’t know how I could really ever finish the required coursework and all of the rigor and demands entailed. I had actually contacted other universities to see what was required in getting a lesser degree. Without such sweet help with Christ’s child care that day after school, I would not be graduating today. Thank you so much, Jenn and Traci!

Tricia & Aaron, my cousins, you gave our daughters so much happiness while blessing us with great comfort knowing our girls were in great care while I was in class and driving back and forth. I’ll never forget how disappointed Shayla when I told her I had completed my coursework and that she didn’t need to go to any more babysitters. “Can I still go to Tricia’s just for fun sometime?” she asked.

To Dr. Lori, my friend: In the midst of your own health battles, you always so lovingly reached out to help me. You are an inspiration to me. When you went and graduated, (smile) I missed our carpooling and conversations terribly. Those were very special times. Christi and Shayla also had very special times being in your home with your beautiful family while I was at class – thank you!

Mom and Joan, I will never forget the many times you met me at our house right after school so that I rush off to class. You would lovingly stay with the girls until Shayne came home from work. THANK YOU!

Joe, you were and still are always so interested in what I was studying and learning about, always so positive that my work will one day make a difference for schools across the country. You have more faith in me than I do myself. Thank you for loving me and being such a great father to me. I don’t deserve you!

Marty & Jeff (my aunt and uncle): Some of Christi’s final days in Ohio were spent in your home as she happily played with your animals and enjoyed your company very much. Thank you for all of the babysitting you so kindly provided over the years so that I could continue meeting all of my requirements at OSU.

Shayne: As I was leaving for my very first class in January of 2004, you said to me, “Don’t hook up with some good-looking gym teacher, ok?” Shayne, I’m only interested in staying hooked up with a great-looking business guy, ok?” Seriously, words cannot adequately express my gratitude to have your unconditional understanding, patience, humor and love as I have endured this lengthy process. Throughout the six years, you helped me through each and every step of this incredible journey. Your undying love and support, not only during this doctoral process, but with all of my undertakings over past the 25 years we have been together, allows me to accomplish my goals and to achieve my dreams, thank you.

Shayla: (give little corsage to Shay) Throughout my doctoral program, you have been my biggest cheerleader and my proudest supporter always encouraging me. You understood when I would leave you in the care of others for my studies and were often saddened when I picked you up because of the special attention you received from friends and family. You cannot possibly ever know the enormity of my love and devotion to you and how very proud I am of you, young lady. I am the luckiest mom on earth to be blessed with a daughter as wonderful as you. Thank you for richly blessing my life. I love you so much!

Three very special people are not with us today. First of all to my internet friend, Olivia who resides in New York. (pause) Who knew such a horrific childhood disease could create such a great friendship?! Trust me, we’d both much rather have our loved ones back here on earth than to have our wonderful friendship, but I’m so glad to have my sweet “Dartmouth Grad” on my side. She is a gem! Thank you to Olivia who lovingly proofread and edited much of my work over the past couple of years and shared her many questions and thoughts with me. (Who’s ERIC? Ah, I guess you have to be in education to know that one! Hee hee!) I really wish Olivia was here celebrating with us today. If I were wealthy, I would have flown her in to join us! I did give it serious thought, but decided it would be just too expensive. I know I wouldn’t be here today without Olivia in my life.

To my deceased father, Vince. He was also so proud of me. I vividly remember going off to college at BGSU as an 18 year old; I think he was the proudest dad on campus carrying all of my “stuff” into my dorm. If he were here right now, I’d definitely be giving mom “that look” trying to get her to get him to stop bragging me up, because that is exactly what he would be doing. The angel pin I’m will wear on my graduation robe this afternoon is in loving memory of my father, Vincent Falter and if they pronounce my name the way I have requested, that will also be because I believe my dad is with me as he has been throughout this journey and all of my accomplishments in my life.

Finally, the hardest one, to Christi: You are the reason I am obtaining a longtime dream of earning a doctorate degree. Through your battle with cancer you taught me that life is short and one should not put off achieving their dreams. From the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, I applied for OSU’s Ph.D. program. You were always so interested in what I was reading and learning about. In the midst of my residency, you earned your angel wings. I had many “talks” with on during the long, lonely drives home from classes. You’ve continued to keep me going with memories of your beautiful little giggle and your incredible wit. In your memory, today I wear the print of your thumb I captured while you were on your deathbed and your first communion Crucifix you were so happy to get the day you received Jesus around my neck. The second angel pin pinned to my graduation robe will be for you. I thank God for you! (Picture: December 2003 - Ronald McDonald House of Philadelphia, Christi 6)

Thank you everyone for being here with me today to celebrate the end of this long journey!
Before we enjoy our lunch, I’ve asked Traci to say a prayer to our loving Father for me. I know He is truly the reason we are all gathered here today and I think it would be too emotional for me to say that one as well. Thanks, Traci!

After lunch, I would like to have a balloon release, lead by Shayla. This balloon release will be a symbolic way to reach out to Christi so that she knows she is the reason I’m here today and that I love and miss her so much, yet want her to be rejoicing in Heaven, enjoying the balloons with all of her little friends.


At 18/12/09 12:47 PM, Blogger Tatiana said...

Dear Thomas Team,

Even I don't comment very often I want you to let you know that I am checking your blog every day and I have been following you since January 06. I can't believe it has been so long.

Angela, I am so... proud of you and that feel strange to say being a stranger, but really I am proud that you now have graudatated and your speech was just, well it made touched me. So much of your writing has done.
And Shayla has become such a beautiful lady, I really like her hair style

I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year, thanks for still updating this blog

From a reader in Denmark

Trine, 19.

At 18/12/09 3:25 PM, Blogger Mum2twopreciousgifts said...

Dear Dr Angela

I came to your blog in 2006 when another NB family asked for prayers for Christi. I have been praying for all of the Thomas Team every since.

Thank you for sharing journey, thank you for inspiring me to be a better Mum, thank you for reminding me that the Lord is the one who loves us no matter how hard our road seems at times and congratulations on your hard earned graduation.

Your speech brought me to tears. As always, so well written and from the heart.

God Bless you, The Thomas Team and all of those who helped you on your journey to graduation.

From our little family in Australia to yours.

Michelle x

At 18/12/09 4:23 PM, Blogger Lisa D :) said...

I read through this post and was okay until I got to Christi -- I'm sitting here sobbing reading these beautiful words.
Congratulations again, Angela. Well done.

At 18/12/09 5:34 PM, Blogger Olivia said...

Angela, your words nearly made me cry. I have no doubt you would have made it without my help (and incessant questions!) but thank you so much for letting me join you on this journey. The nerd in me loved all of it and appreciated all that you taught through your writing.

You are an amazing friend, Angela. And, while I certainly wish the circumstances were different, I am so very blessed and honored to have you in my life.

Love you!

PS- Yes, the flight would have been too much but I'll get out to see your office and tour the campus (and visit the library!) soon. (Hopefully when the weather is warmer. :p)

At 18/12/09 11:55 PM, Blogger Holly said...

Sweet Angela! I "met" you and your family as a Special Assignment Chemo Angel and I have followed your journey through the years and held you in my prayers daily. I am so happy for your wonderful accomplishment! Congratulations!! It is well deserved. Much love to you all!
Holly Hart
Katy Texas

At 19/12/09 6:40 AM, Blogger Amy said...

Simply touching Angela! Congratulations to you and to your whole family!

At 19/12/09 7:04 AM, Anonymous Oliwia (Poland) said...

It was just beautiful and brought tears into my eyes, I'm so happy that you've achieved your goal.I'm still following your blog every day and have Christi in my heart.I feel as If I knew you and your beautiful family forever.

At 19/12/09 11:03 AM, Blogger Lora said...

Beautiful! So genuinely heartfelt. I'm sure you had them all in I am now. Thanks for sharing it. You remind me time and time again to be grateful for all the good in my life. You are a truley amazing woman in so many ways. Love, Lora

At 19/12/09 5:25 PM, Blogger priscilla villamar said...

congratulations. i know beautiful Christi is rejoicing in Heaven.

At 19/12/09 11:57 PM, Blogger kat30ran said...

Congrats Angela! My thoughts have been with you and the whole Thomas Team today. I flew into Philly this morning. While sitting at my gate there was a large ad for Alex's Lemonade Stand! It reminded of all your blogs and memories you've shared with us. It also took me back to the day Christi read Alex's book to us in Dr. Grine's class at Heidelberg.

My prayers continue for your family.

Catheran Bibb

At 6/1/10 11:55 PM, Blogger Team Russi said...

Congratulations on your graduation! It's a well deserved accomplishment.

I learned of your family from another NB family (Alexa Aigner). Alexa was treated at CHOP during Christi's last stay. I was amazed by your grace and generosity when you donated Christi's cells for research. Your family continues to amaze me.

Good luck on the next step of your journey. I hope that you'll continue to feel Christi by your side.

Jenny Russi

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