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W.Va. boy continues battle against leukemia

November 30, 1999|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? Six-year-old Thomas Lathwell is beginning to realize he's different, according to his mother, Cindy Lathwell of Hedgesville, W.Va.

But the youngster's roller-coasterlike battle with leukemia since February 2003 hasn't changed his character.

"He's still smiling, a happy kid," Lathwell said last week.

But her son still is fighting the battle.

After having a relapse in June 2006, her son received bone marrow from his older brother, Nicholas, 9, in September at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

"He's been through a whole lot," Lathwell said of Thomas.

And so have Lathwell, her husband, Kevin, and their seven other children. And it's not over yet.

"If he can make it two years, they'll pretty much consider him out of the woods," Cindy Lathwell said.

Now, his hair is growing back after radiation treatments, but the boy still gets tired quickly, she said.

"There was a point where he couldn't get out of bed," Lathwell said.


From June through December, the family was able to stay at an apartment near Johns Hopkins while Thomas' medical condition was dire, an "hour-by-hour" situation.

Though their oldest son now is in college, Lathwell said it was a challenge for the family to squeeze into a 400-square-foot apartment from their 4,000-square-foot house.

During that time, she saw her husband in passing as he needed to continue to work for insurance benefits that still don't cover bills now approaching $200,000.

"You just kind of do what you have to do," Lathwell said.

Recognizing the expenses the family has accumulated, friends of the family have organized "Shine Brightly," a benefit dinner and auction scheduled for Saturday at St. Leo Catholic Church Fellowship Hall near Inwood, W.Va., according to Katie MacKinnon, who along with other members of the church put the event together.

In a letter seeking community support, MacKinnon said the Lathwells never complained about their situation, but church members quickly realized they needed to help.

Lathwell said she and her husband only recently began attending mass at St. Leo after moving to Hedgesville a few years ago, but have been surprised by the support extended by their church family.

"They've just been amazing, supporting us," Lathwell said. "They don't know us that well."

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