The Why? Foundation's Touchstone Thursday
by Allison W. Gryphon
by Allison W. Gryphon
Tom Thostrup. 33. It was three years ago and he was completely besotted with his beloved Ellie. 27 years old, with a wonderful career in broadcast journalism and a smile that lit up the sky, Ellie had it all. No one saw the cancer coming. And no one knew it would move so quickly.
As cancer does, it turned Tom’s life upside down and put everything that was important in front of him and everything that wasn’t in the past.
Ellie had an aggressive breast cancer that had spread. She was in surgery and treatment immediately. She was also in love and with the impact of the cancer bomb that had dropped on both of them, Tom realized the depth of his love too. He proposed. Ellie, fought, loved lived and married her sweetheart. She fought a good two year fight and embraced the passion of life before cancer took her.
Full of love and inspiration from the girl of his dreams, three years after her initial diagnosis Tom has started the Eleanor Rose Foundation for cancer fighters and their families. The organization was created in Ellie’s memory with the goal of connecting generous service providers and cancer fighters in need. Massages, acupuncture, movie tickets, and a nice dinner out are a few of the many gifts facilitated by the Eleanor Rose Foundation. Things that make you happy, that make you feel good and thing that make you smile, just like Ellie made Tom smile straight from the heart every day.
HOW DID CANCER COME IN TO YOUR LIFE?
Ellie was my girlfriend of a year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 27 years old.
We were given the news of Ellie’s primary diagnosis by an oddly smiley doctor and although there had been some signs in that she had to undergo more tests than otherwise, it was still a real shock to both of us, because when Ellie found the lump everyone was confident that it would be benign.
HOW DID YOUR WORLD CHANGE WITH YOUR ELLIE’S DIAGNOSIS?
The day she was diagnosed I told Ellie I loved her; I hadn’t said it before but the threat of losing Ellie made me realize how important she was to me. Ellie’s primary diagnosis was traumatic but we still hoped that the surgery and chemo would cure her and that we could leave it behind. Her diagnosis with secondary breast cancer was far more devastating as the oncologist basically told us Ellie had a very limited time left.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF WATCHING ELLIE FIGHT CANCER?
It was tough to see Ellie in pain or feeling nauseous from the effects of chemotherapy, but it was even worse when she was upset. Ellie was always so full of life and so positive, so it was really difficult to see her having a hard time mentally when dealing with cancer got her down.
WHAT DID YOU DO TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT?
I tried to keep her spirits up. We did fun things when she felt up to it. Going on trips away or having nice meals out. When she lost her appetite or was trying to stick to a healthier diet I tried to cook new things that she would still find tasty. Preparing for the wedding was a positive thing for her so we would talk about that too.
HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THE DAY-TO-DAY OF HER CANCER FIGHT?
I tried to be as positive as possible when I was with Ellie so that she always had hope. I felt it was an important part of keeping her motivated during her fight.
WHAT DID YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE EXPERIENCE?
The whole thing feels very unfair. I know I’m biased but everyone who knew Ellie would agree that she was a truly wonderful person. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that she didn’t get to experience so many things that she wanted to. Marriage, motherhood, further career success after having worked so hard. I feel she deserved much, much more.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR FRIENDS, FAMILY AND CO-WORKERS OF CANCER FIGHTERS?
Give them space and don’t ask them for more than they can give, but when you do see them treat them like normal human beings and be supportive. They still want to have fun and in all likelihood don’t want you to act any differently around them.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THE MEDICAL PROFESSION?
When giving people the news of their condition it’s important to be realistic, but also to explain to people what their options are. People living with cancer need hope and part of this comes with knowing the treatment options.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER CANCER FIGHTERS?
I think people have to deal with their condition in whatever way that works best for them. They should get as much information as possible from their oncologist and if they don’t have faith in the people in charge of their medical care they should seek a second opinion.
Eleanor Rose Jeffery 8 January 1983 – May 18 2012
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FUTURE? WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS?
I don’t like to think too far ahead nowadays. I can’t imagine my future without Ellie but I would like to make a success of The Eleanor Rose Foundation and leave a legacy for her that will benefit other people who find themselves in the same circumstances as her.
FOR YOU IN ONE WORD WHAT IS CANCER?
To learn more about the Eleanor Rose Foundation please visit www.eleanorrose.org
Allison W. Gryphon