JJ Thomas’ Front Row Experience: Cleveland Cavaliers Game
Illness: Mixed Phenotype Acute Leukemia
JJ Thomas is a beloved son, brother, and friend. Humble and kind, he is known for being easy to talk to and for being an exceptional athlete. JJ also has an incredible family—Mom, Dad, Sister, and Brother—who supports him and each other in everything.
In November 2016, one phone call changed the Thomas family forever.
JJ was struggling to get over a lingering case of Strep Throat. After a trip to the the doctor and additional testing, they received the news, “Go to Children’s Hospital. You’ll spend the weekend there at least. It looks like JJ has Leukemia.”
Diagnosed with Mixed Phenotype Acute Leukemia, JJ began chemotherapy treatments right away—both in-patient and out patient. In September 2017, he started maintenance therapy which will last 2 ½ years and consists of monthly hospital clinic visits to receive IV intrathecal chemotherapy (in addition to daily oral chemotherapy and other medication).
Described by his mom, Michelle, as both sweet and tough (all of the doctors agree he is AMAZING), JJ’s positive attitude throughout his treatment is inspiring. Leaning on his faith during this incredibly difficult time, JJ believes wholeheartedly that God is with him and that he’ll receive his Forever Cure.
Being an active kid, JJ has missed playing sports, going to school, and seeing friends. (Due to his weakened immune system, he needs to be extra careful around others and especially in public places.) In the midst of these big lifestyle changes, JJ developed new interests like geocaching, radio controlled cars and boats, new books and movies, and playing games with his family and home instruction teacher.
If one thing is certain, it’s that JJ’s family has rallied around him during this time of changes and challenges—there’s no doubt that they are all in this together. JJ worried last summer about not seeing friends, but his brother Zach reassured him, “Don’t worry, JJ. I’ll stay home with you. I’ll be your best friend.”
And that’s one reason why a day out like this, to see their favorite team play, was such a gift—and so much more than just a game to watch.
On March 5th, this sweet family of 5 (who also happen to be some serious Cavaliers fans) headed to Cleveland to watch LeBron and the Cavs play—courtside!
Arriving the night before from Columbus, the family stayed at a hotel nearby the arena. The Front Row event team, Rebecca Herzog and Joreen Varecka, were happy to bump into the Thomas crew the next morning at breakfast. That afternoon, the family shared more about JJ’s cancer journey during the Front Row interview, as well as open gifts.
You’ve got to see the gift that made them all SWOON—we’ll just tell ya that someone special’s shoes are involved.
That night our group headed to the Crop Bistro, an amazing historical restaurant that was once a bank. There was deep gratitude among the family that the restaurant was quiet and that we had the place to ourselves! Crowded spaces are worrisome for JJ’s compromised immune system and the lack of people around was an unexpected gift.
We had a tour of the restaurant and were able to see the old vault, learn the history, and took a bunch of photos. Did we mention the food was mind-blowing?!
Next up, the game! The family’s shared love of the Cavaliers came to life as they were able to watch front and center, with LeBron just 10-15 feet away! In a true Front Row moment, the Cavs beat the Pistons 112-90, making it an unforgettable game.
The fun didn’t stop there. Post-game we hung out by the locker room and a player threw his arm sleeve to JJ. We were also able to get into the Lexus Lounge to watch players go into the press conference, thanks to our photographer Mylan and his connections.
The day was topped off with meeting Larry Nance Jr. and getting his autograph—again, thanks to Mylan! (And for the record, Larry scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds during the game!)
What a fun-filled, #frontrowmoment-making day.
Just shy of two more years of treatment to go, Michelle commented how experiences like this truly help them get through the hard times. After the game, JJ beamed, “It was awesome!! I had one of the best days of my life!”
You are one cool dude and we are so happy to have met you. You will grow up to do amazing things and it is clear to see that your family will always be your biggest cheerleaders. Keep smiling and sharing your light with the world – and remember to always Live Life in the Front Row!
Bex and Joreen