Local cancer survivor beats odds

Ronnica Thomson laughs with her daughter Tori, 9, after Tori played on the trampoline Wednesday in the back yard of their home. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

Cooped up in a Roswell hospital bed after surgery to remove a tumor 18 months ago, Ronnica Thomson saw sadness through a hospital room window in the eyes of family and friends.

She knew the news was bad, but nothing prepared her for what she overheard her doctor say next: “He told my aunt ‘she needs to go home and get her affairs in order,’” Thomson recalls.

Sometime after, she got the news firsthand. She had stage four colon cancer — the most life-threatening level of the disease — and her doctor estimated she had four months to live.

“It was the day before my 32nd birthday and so I was like: ‘This is so unfair,’” she said.

But instead of wallowing in pity, she decided she would prove her doctor wrong.

“I had my little pity party and then got back up and said ‘I’m not going to accept that and I’m going to live,’” she said.

Thomson has gone through a myriad of medical treatment, including months of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy, her husband Mike Thomson said, was extremely draining and kept her bed-ridden much of the time.

“It would knock her out for three days and by the time she was good to go it was time for another dose,” Mike said.

With chemotherapy having little effect, Ronnica turned to an experimental treatment offered in San Antonio. Unlike chemotherapy, the side affects of the new treatment are minimal and include dry skin and acne, but no loss of hair and energy.

Ronnica’s story caught the attention of the Clovis Junior Women’s Club, which chose her as this year’s honorary chairperson of the cancer survivors residing in Clovis.

“It’s all about her story of survival,” club member Brienna Scott said. “She was given no hope; we’re honoring her for defying the odds.”

Ronnica will speak at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, which begins Friday night at Ned Houk Park in Clovis.

The event kicks off with the lighting of luminarias in recognition of those who have experienced cancer firsthand.

Ronnica will also give a short talk Friday evening about her bout with cancer.

Doctors believe treatment has dwindled her cancer to 28 percent of what it once was, and she is no longer on death’s radar.

The disease has affected other parts of the Thomsons’ lives.

Mike had to quit his manager job at Office Max, and Ronnica had to leave her position as an insurance specialist with Clovis schools.

“It’s been very tight financially, let’s put it that way,” Mike said.

Mike now works with Clovis schools during the day, and is looking for a night job delivering pizza. He also attends Eastern New Mexico University and hopes to go into teaching.

Ronnica, a mother of two, attributes her turnaround to faith in God and the many friends and family who supported her in recovery.

Her house is littered with prominently placed art and signs praising God.

In a much more discreet location, above the door, hangs a sign her friends gave her.

The sign reads: “Keep Moving Those Mountains, Ronnica.”
Besides improvement in physical health, Mike says Ronnica’s most noteworthy change came in her outlook. The once shy woman who would listen to stories at parties is now the one telling the stories, about how faith in God helped her successfully fight cancer.

“I’m not saying I’m glad I went through cancer because it’s not fun, but I’ve learned a lot and I’m not the same person I was. I’m a lot stronger spiritually and I don’t take anything for granted,” she said.

Ronnica isn’t the only one in her family who is experiencing disease. Her 5-year-old son Jacob was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a congenital disease which results in frequent respiratory infections.

The Thomsons said Jacob is doing well and is expected to live a long life; they believe there may be a cure for the disease within 10 years.

Jacob takes medication and sometimes uses breathing aids. Other than that, he leads the normal life of a youngster, the Thomsons said.

Shortly after Ronnica was diagnosed with cancer, Jacob was working on a project and reached a lull, which bothered him. Ronnica told him he didn’t have to complete the task.

Like many children his age, Jacob ignored his mother’s advice.

“He said ‘I will finish, remember mommy never give up,’ and that’s when I knew giving up was not an option,” Ronnica said.