‘When you wake up to your son’s number LEVELS UP! And we get to go home for a few days as he is killing CANCER!’

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“My Name is Kennith Allen Thomas, choreographer, dancer, and owner of the Level Dance Complex in Pennsauken, NJ. Originally from Willingboro, NJ and now residing in Merchantville, NJ. My wife and I have 4 Kids: Aliyana 14, Kaleb 9, Javion 4 and Kristian 15 months. On June 19th our youngest son Kristian was diagnosed with Cancer. AMKL Leukemia to be exact. Our son was born with Trisomy 21 aka Down Syndrome. He spent about 10 days in the NICU when he was born.

Over the past year Kristian has had a blood disorder. The doctors told us due to his low platelet levels that Kristian could develop Leukemia at some point in his life. But we did not think it would be this soon. His doctor wanted to keep a close eye on his development and right before Kristian turned 1 he developed two high fevers in March and April of 2018. Kristian had a small period where he did not need to have blood work weekly. But once the fevers came his doctors wanted to have weekly blood work to watch his platelet count.

Little boy with blood disorder smiles for a photo while sitting next to a bear with a shirt that reads "Fight Kristian"
Kenny Clutch

If he developed petechiae we knew his platelet levels were down. In May of 2018 his hematologist Dr. Ahmed wanted him to be seen by CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) for a second opinion. At that point we ran into a small issue that prevented Kristian from being seen right away. CHOP denied our evaluation visit because they did not accept our insurance. So, we appealed and pushed for Kristian to be seen. It took us 30 days to be accepted but we were in for a 1-time visit. Which was June 19th. On that day we had plans to take the kids out after the appointment, so we could start our family fun for the summer. Instead we got the news that Kristian had to be admitted into CHOP. The doctors found two abnormal cells which looked like they had developed into leukemia.

They did not want to confirm until they completed further testing. About 6 hours later it was confirmed Kristian has Leukemia. But the doctors needed to do a bone marrow biopsy to know the type. We found out that Kristian has AMKL which is associated with Down Syndrome. At that point our life changed, I felt numb and my wife was in denial. As tears ran down her face I knew I had to get in quarterback mode. So, I prayed. I asked for God’s Guidance. I had to remain calm. After speaking with the doctors on what the plan would be moving forward, I grabbed my family. And we circled around Kristian by his bedside. I gave my family the game plan on how we are going to move forward. The main thing was to stay focused.

We prayed over Kristian as a family. It was our most emotional moment yet. Over the next few days it was a lot of back and forth from Philly to South Jersey. Figuring out where the other kids are going to stay. Our family and friends started to step up to help us. And honestly at this moment 6 or 7 days in we had spent so much money on food, gas, toll, extra clothes. My wife and I had spent over $600 in 5 days which was over our monthly budget.

Little boy kisses dad on the cheek

We knew we could not keep that up. Especially if this was going to be every 5-7 days. So, we then decided to go to social media. I designed a shirt called #FIGHTKRISTIAN because we knew we’re in the fight of our lives. And with having to close down our dance studio for a few weeks to get things in order and shut down our summer camp, selling t-shirts would be the only way to keep us afloat.

Once we put it out and let everyone know about our situation, the outpouring of love and prayers was amazing. People started purchasing shirts and just donating to help us.

Around Day #8 I needed to dance. Being in the hospital and not being able to go to the studio was killing me. So, I decided to document our journey. Dancing next to my son in his hospital room became therapeutic for all of us. The joy on Kristian’s face was priceless. So, we would do one every few days. During this time Kristian had 4 days of Chemotherapy so I had to keep his spirits high during the process. He began to get stronger. Although his levels dropped, Kristian remained strong. For weeks we played the waiting game as his levels dropped and we waited for them to go back up. 32 days went by. Kristian needed his ANC levels to go up to 200 and rising to go home for at least a week.

On day 32 at 7:45am the doctors came in to tell us that his numbers were 170 and rising and that Kristian could go home. We were super excited because we’d get the chance to be with our other kids and be a normal family for a little while before round 2. On that day we heard the song by Ciara Level Up. So, I decided to dance celebrating our sons levels going up. Ironically my wife and I own a dance studio in Pennsauken NJ Called Level Dance Complex.

I posted the video not knowing there was a #levelupchallenge. A few hours went by and the video started to pick up. By the next afternoon the video was at 900,000 views on IG. At that point Ciara herself commented and reposted the video. Within minutes I had gained another 6,000 followers. The video had hit over 1 million views. By that Monday it had hit over 2 million within 2 days.

Our message to FIGHT was getting recognized. People from all over the world started to reach out to tell us how inspiring our story is. It was at that moment we knew God had a much bigger plan for our family. And we planned to move forward and FIGHT!! Even though we are in a rough situation, we feel blessed we’re able to help and inspire others. Knowing Kristian has so many more people behind him and that love him is amazing.

We will continue the FIGHT for Kristian as well as other families in this situation. I want to be an example for young fathers to stick around no matter what. To never give up on your kids because they need us. So, to all the fathers and men, let’s push for our women and children. Let us lead by example and not run when the situation gets tough. Peace and love will always overcome negativity.”

Proud dad holds his toddler son in the hospital
Kenny Clutch

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kenny Clutch, 34, of New Jersey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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