It was a parent’s nightmare come true — a midnight phone call, a rush to the ER, and a group of doctors giving somber confirmation of your daughter’s cancer after days of anxious waiting for test results.
This is how Orting residents Nick and Charlene spent their 2017 winter holiday with their youngest daughter, Aurora “Rory” Thayse, who was two years old when she was officially diagnosed with leukemia.
“I’m usually the kind of guy who hopes for the best, and stay positive,” Nick recalled. “But then when the doctors come in, and there’s four of them and they sit down… that moment is filled with anxiety and pain and shock and fear.”
But looking at Rory now, playing in the bounce house or riding a bike in the obstacle course set up at National Night Out at Allan Yorke Park last week, you probably wouldn’t realize she spent the last half-year going through intensive treatment if not for her hair only starting to grow back.
And almost in celebration of doctors declaring Rory having “no evidence of the disease” (she won’t be in remission until five consecutive cancer-free years), Rory was one of dozens of Washington kids to be officially sworn in during the biennial Chief For A Day event, representing the Bonney Lake Police Department, at the State Criminal Training Commission on Thursday, Aug. 16.
Rory came to the attention of the BLPD shortly after her diagnosis — friends and family of the Thayses created a GoFundMe to help the family pay for medical costs and other expenses related to Rory’s treatment, and even passed around physical flyers around Orting, Bonney Lake and other cities to spread the word of a family in need.
BLPD Records Clerk Jaime Amsbaugh saw one of those flyers, and immediately reached out to the Thayse family to ask if they’d be interested in making Rory the department’s Chief For A Day.
“They’re great,” Charlene said. “I think they would have done more if we had been around more… they’ve been very supportive.”
Being part of the Chief For A Day program means the BLPD helps the Thayse family raise funds for various expenses as well as collect donations like toys and presents for Rory.
This year, the department also held a raffle for a Traeger grill, which was given away during the National Night Out event.
But it’s not all about raising money — officers visited Rory at the Seattle Children’s Hospital to celebrate her 3rd birthday, since doctors did not want her to be more than 45 minutes away from the hospital during any part of her six-month treatment.
Officers also lent a hand when Nick needed help setting up a play set donated to the family by The Little Wish Foundation, so Rory would have a brand new swing set and jungle gym when she got home from her treatment.
Most recently, Rory accompanied officers on the police boat around Lake Tapps.
“They’ve been like, ‘whatever you need, we can make it happen,’” Charlene said.
Rory was ecstatic when she came home and saw the play set, because she loves to be outside and play in the dirt, but couldn’t when she was going through treatment.
“‘I’ve never had a park at house before,’” Nick recalled Rory saying.
Rory was officially recognized as Bonney Lake’s Chief For A Day via a proclamation from Mayor Neil Johnson during the Aug. 17 council meeting.
Although she is no longer in treatment, Rory still gets monthly checkups to make sure the leukemia isn’t returning, and the Thayses still have many expenses they still have to cover.
Rory’s diagnosis also put the Thayse’s financial consulting business on hold, meaning the family had little income beyond donations for the last six months.
Donations of funds and other items can be made to the BLPD (call (253) 863-2218 for more information) or by visiting the GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/auroras-medical-cost.
SHOUTOUTS TO OTHER NONPROFITS
Nick and Charlene had a lot on their minds for the last several months, and were thankful that their family, friends and community stepped up to help them with whatever they needed.
They gave special mention of Footprints of Fight, a nonprofit based in Covington that financially supports families that are fighting cancer by donating gas cards, grocery cards, light housecleaning services, and more.
“They definitely helped us a lot,” Charlene said, especially because it was difficult for her family to get together and coordinate these tasks on their own — since Rory couldn’t be more than 45 minutes from the hospital, Nick and Charlene would switch off living with Rory in a Seattle Ronald McDonald House and living at home in Orting with Rory’s older sister.
The Thayses also thanked the people and nonprofits that donate blood.
“I never thought of how much blood a cancer patient needs. Especially with leukemia, she got blood and platelets every day, or every other day,” Charlene said. “It’s crazy.”
In mid-July, the Seattle-based Bloodworks Northwest reported a critically low inventory of the universal donor type O-negative blood.
“A blood type is considered critically low when it reaches a two-day supply, as opposed to a four-day operational inventory,” the organization said in a press release. “It takes over 800 donor registrations every day to maintain an operational blood supply in the Northwest.”
To donate blood or platelets, go online to bloodworksnw.org or by calling 1-800-398-7888