COVID, Cancer, then Cancer Again

By: Andrew Miller-Thomas

On January 14th of 2009, my aunt “Thea” Maria lost her decade-long battle against breast cancer.

From left: Me, my mom Denise, my sister Alexandra and my Thea Maria. In 2009, we lost Thea Maria to breast cancer.


She was 50, a Hollywood seamstress who spent her days crafting one-of-a-kind articles of clothing for LA’s brightest stars. The last time I saw my aunt, she was in Detroit working on an emerald green gem encrusted dress for Aretha Franklin, patiently awaiting the Soul Queen’s arrival.

Following Thea Maria’s death, my mom Donna began fundraising for the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event, founding the “GM IT Team” that would go on to break fundraising records on an annual basis.




Donna receiving the GM award for Making Strides fundraising.

When I was a kid, my moms would bring me and my sister, Alexandra, to Detroit for the annual Making Strides walk through the city. I remember being taken aback by the overwhelming aura of positivity at these marches. Never before had I seen so many people, from all types of backgrounds willing to fight together for a cause.

But now, in 2020, the true value of organizations like the American Cancer Society have become quite clear to me. On March 9th, after finding a lump in her right breast following a routine mammogram, my other mom, Denise was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.




Donna and I at Making Strides in Detroit
Donna post-mastectomy in August 2020.

As much as the news was shocking to me and my family, Denise never gave us a reason to worry. Within 24 hours of her surgery to remove the lump, she was back on her feet, racing around the house completing chores with the tenacity of a drill sergeant smoking his cadets. Her unwavering strength cleared the scary out of her diagnosis, assuring our family that she will defeat cancer.

Unfortunately, a COVID epidemic and a cancer diagnosis was not all 2020 had in mind for the Miller-Thomas family. On July 2nd of 2020, my mom Donna was diagnosed with Ductile Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS) after doctors found a 9 cm growth in her left breast during her regular mammogram. This news was shocking, but she assured us that she, too, would pull through.

Denise at her radiation treatment in Spring 2020.


Donna’s cancer led her down the road of a double mastectomy. After a few days of inter-family debate, she decided to mitigate the risks of remission as much as she could and underwent the procedure. The day following her surgery, Denise sent my sister and I a picture of a smiling rosy-cheeked Donna fresh out of the OR, all had gone well.

We were lucky, the combination of overwhelming strength, routine mammograms, and a little bit of luck saved BOTH of my moms, allowing them to walk away from their diagnoses stronger, better people. I wear pink not only for my moms, whose strength proved to me that there is nothing that can’t be overcome, but for my Thea Maria and the millions of others who lost their battle, no matter how strong they were.

A family trip to Greece


This year, in honor of my moms and Thea Maria, I joined the Real Men Wear Pink campaign where I will wear pink every day in October and fundraise for the American Cancer Society. Please join me in our fight to end cancer and reach a future where every cancer story can end with a family still intact.

If you’d like to make a donation to my Real Men Wear Pink campaign, please visit

You can also join ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer to help fund the future of breast cancer research. For more information visit

American Cancer Society in Michigan

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