When he was 8 years old, Kenny Thomas lost a significant amount of weight, developed a constant cough and struggled sleeping. His family took him to the emergency department searching for an answer, which came following an X-ray of Kenny’s chest.
“The doctor, when he came back, he had a very different look on his face. That’s when he told us that it was cancer, that he had a mass in his chest,” says Kenny’s mother, Lori. “I literally fell on the floor and I screamed and I started crying. One of the male nurses came in and lifted me off the ground, and he said, ‘Come on. We’re going to fight this.’”
Kenny has come back stronger. He was honored as the UCLA Health Laker for a Day on Nov. 29, when he watched his hometown team take the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors into overtime.
Back on Sept. 9, 2012, Kenny’s life changed forever. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after the X-ray revealed stage 3 cancer in his chest.
“I asked (my mom) if I could die from cancer. She said, ‘People have in the past, but you’re strong so you won’t. We’re going to fight this together,’” Kenny recalls.
He underwent countless procedures, numerous hospital stays and chemotherapy three times a week for eight months.
“Seeing him struggle with the chemo, seeing him have many sleepless nights, it was tough,” says his father, Kenneth. “But he hung in there and he fought a good fight.”
After three years of treatment, Kenny’s cancer went into remission. Now Kenny can focus on his favorite things in life: family, friends and basketball. He was able to do all three during his Laker for a Day experience, receiving a behind-the-scenes tour of Staples Center and watching warmups from the floor with his parents and physician, Theodore Moore, Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at UCLA.
Kenny, who has been a Lakers fan as long as he can remember, hopes his Laker for a Day platform will help raise awareness about pediatric cancer research.
“It’s great and it’s an honor,” Kenny says.
For more information about pediatric cancer treatment, visit uclahealth.org/mattel/pediatric-hematology-oncology