Vail teen rides high on Thanksgiving float
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Thomas Walsh is grateful for many things this Thanksgiving. As the Vail teen looks back on his battle with cancer, he’s most thankful for family and friends.
“It sounds really simple, but it’s big for me,” he said. “I was struggling last year, and my family stood by me.”
On Thursday, Thomas will ride on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The performance is symbolic of his recovery from a rare form of bone cancer.
Last year, Thomas was too sick to join his friends from summer camp on a float in the parade. His friends paid him a private tribute by placing their right hands over their hearts.
This year, Thomas will be singing with with 80 other kids from the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts training center in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., where Thomas goes to camp.
After a long struggle with his health, Walsh is now cancer-free and easing back into the things he enjoys most, including performing.
The 15-year-old will don an elf costume and sing Christmas tunes on OfficeMax’s Elves Raise the Roof float during the nationally televised parade.
“I’m a little nervous, but it’s really exciting,” Walsh said.
More than 50 million people are expected to watch the 84th annual event, but it will be especially poignant for Thomas’s mom, Kathleen Walsh, who will be watching her son perform.
“It’s just really special that he gets to do it this year,” she said through tears.
Today, Thomas is all smiles as he talks about the parade. The only trace of his ordeal is a wristful of colorful bracelets, each symbolizing a person or place that meant something to him during his struggle with cancer.
Thomas first noticed something was wrong in August 2008, when his hip started to hurt any time he rode his bike.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t even sit down in a chair because of the pain,” he said.
After a round of doctors’ visits failed to pinpoint what was wrong, Thomas figured he might just be going through growing pains.
But in May 2009, he discovered the pain in his hip was something more serious: a tumor almost the size of a grapefruit in his pelvis and several more nodules in his lungs. He had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and life-threatening form of bone cancer.
“It’s like everything changed from that day on,” he said.
Thomas has been through many rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries to remove parts of his pelvis and lungs.
In June, doctors finally told Thomas his body no longer showed signs of cancer.
“I was happy,” he said. “I was glad it was all over.”
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Thomas is getting back into the swing of his normal life. He is enjoying his sophomore year at the Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont, where he is fine-tuning his ski racing.
Throughout his battle with cancer, one source of comfort for Thomas’ family has been the outpouring of support from the community, his mother said.
“I am so grateful for his recovery and the fact that our whole community has supported him,” she said. “It’s really the efforts of the community that have gotten my son well.”
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 9
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