Thomas' Oncology Story

Jun 6, 2019

Keeping an Eye on the Prize

Thomas Hollandsworth, Oncology Patient, Palm Beach Children's Hospital
Thomas HollandsworthAs a mother, it's natural to want to protect your children from harm's way. But when things happen that are outside of your control, sometimes you have to rely on others for help.

Dawn Hollandsworth's oldest son Thomas is a typical teenager. He's outgoing, friendly and physically active as a member of his high school's varsity basketball team. However, Thomas is different from a typical 17-year old boy in one major way - he has a type of cancer called Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Before Thomas' diagnosis, Dawn noticed that her son had been losing a significant amount of weight. When she found a lump in his neck, she had more than enough reason to worry. She immediately took him to his pediatrician who referred them to Dr. Curtis Emmer, an ear, nose and throat specialist on the medical staff at St. Mary's Medical Center. Dr. Emmer ordered blood work, ran some tests and performed a fine-needle aspiration biopsy on the lump in Thomas' neck.

"When the results came back, we received the devastating news that Thomas had stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma," Dawn recalls. "Words cannot describe the fear I felt for my child. My job is to protect him, but I couldn't protect him from this."

The Hollandsworth family put their trust and faith in the doctors and staff at Palm Beach Children's Hospital at St. Mary's, where Thomas would receive chemotherapy treatment. He was under the care of pediatric oncologists, Dr. Narayana Gowda and Dr. Vinay Saxena, as well as a compassionate and caring group of oncology nurses.

"The entire oncology department is staffed with some of the most amazing people, who over time, become like family," says Dawn.

After spending about three weeks in the hospital, Thomas was discharged, but returned as an outpatient for several weeks to finish up his treatment.

"As a token of our appreciation for the compassionate care we received, we helped raise over $10,000 on behalf of the teams from Palm Beach Children's Hospital and St. Mary's participating in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Night walk," Dawn says.

Thomas' story inspired many of his friends and family members to get involved as well. His sister registered to participate in the walk, his dad collected donations at work and Thomas' school even pitched in. His basketball teammates, teachers and classmates all made signs and banners for the day of the walk to cheer on Team Thomas.

He continues to improve and is currently in the next phase of treatment, radiation therapy, at The Kaplan Cancer Center at St. Mary's.

"Through everything, he has remained strong, and so has our family," Dawn says.

Thomas is doing extremely well and has graduated from high school. He plans to attend the University of South Florida or Florida State University to study either criminology or accounting.

"My family and I can't thank the pediatric oncology team at Palm Beach Children's Hospital enough for their continued care and support," Dawn says. "I may have felt uneasy at first about putting my son's life in the hands of others, but I am so glad I did. From this experience, my family has not only grown closer, we have grown larger."