By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Lena Thomas is grateful her tumor grew to the size of a basketball and crushed her fallopian tube.
Otherwise, the doctors may have found it too late.
Doctors removed a tumor 33 centimeters wide from her pelvic bone on Jan. 29, and they diagnosed her with stage 2 ovarian cancer on Feb. 11. She's counting on her 80 percent chance of survival. She has seven children who need her.
"My youngest is a year old. My oldest is 12," Thomas said. "I want them to have a mom."
Thomas' family expands outside her home and into her church. Pastor Tony Metz and the congregation at Luther Memorial Church in Quincy began scrambling soon after the diagnosis to plan a benefit. Thomas must take several weeks off from her job as guest services department manager at the McDonald's near Quincy Mall. Metz hopes the March 2 benefit may help the family with expenses during Thomas' recovery.
(Editor's note: Because of weather, the benefit for Lena Thomas has been rescheduled for noon Sunday, March 23, at Luther Memorial Church, 12th and Jersey streets in Quincy.)
"It's just the way that you respond when family is going through a tough time," Metz said. "She's going to be off work for a number of weeks, and we really wanted to help."
The benefit will feature a Maid-Rite meal, silent auction, activities for kids and performances from Cheeks McGee.
Thomas and her family began attending Luther Memorial Church in June shortly after the birth of her youngest son, Jared. The infant contracted respiratory syncytial virus. The little boy struggled to breathe and was airlifted to St. Louis for treatments. Metz learned about Jared's condition through Facebook, and he messaged Thomas to let her know the whole church was praying for him.
"As soon as Jared was out of the hospital that first Sunday, Lena brought all seven kids to church," Metz said. "We've loved them from the first Sunday they were there, and they've just kept coming."
That love, support and faith has helped Thomas through the past several weeks. The trouble began in December, and the tumor grew rapidly until its removal. Within weeks, Metz looked as though she'd become eight months pregnant. She lost more than 20 pounds after doctors cut out the tumor.
"As a 30-year-old, you don't expect it," Thomas said. "I really feel that I'm lucky that it was caught this soon. As crazy as it sounds, I am thankful for that."
That sense of thanksgiving spreads to her mother and her husband for helping with the children during her recovery. It reaches to her church family for acting so quickly on the benefit and spreads to the staff at McDonald's for their compassion.
"It's been overwhelming how supportive everybody has been," Thomas said. "They're throwing this benefit. People I don't know, and businesses I may not have heard of, have just reached out. It's amazing."
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