Graduating from college on time with her friends was top priority for Linsey Thut.
“I’ve come all this way with these people who are like family,” Thut said. “I couldn’t imagine coming back to school without them.”
But everyday life, not just graduation, seemed almost impossible when doctors discovered a tumor larger than a cantaloupe in Thut’s stomach wall, just after she started her senior year at Abilene Christian University in Abilene.
The symptoms started last summer when Thut, a Keller High alumna, started noticing pain and firmness on the right side of her stomach that were gradually worsening. As school started, it grew into a painful bulge.
“There came time where sweatpants and pajama pants hurt,” she said. She realized then that she needed a doctor.
She came home to Keller and went to a doctor in Dallas, who found it was a rare, noncancerous desmoid tumor. Only about 900 people a year in the U.S. are diagnosed with the tumors, according to the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation. They can be life-threatening, depending on location and how fast they grow.
While doctors said she wasn’t in a lot of danger, Thut saw her last year of college disappearing as she stayed in Keller for weeks, undergoing chemotherapy. After missing three weeks of school, she returned to ACU and continued chemo treatments through February, which was exhausting.
“I wasn’t myself,” Thut said. “It was really scary to see my body deteriorate.”
The chemo drained her energy, caused some of her thick, curly hair to fall out and, at times, ruined her appetite. Thut lost weight. All she wanted to do was sleep.
“My friends and the ACU community were amazing,” Thut said. “My family was always putting me first.”
Thut said if the tumor grew despite the chemotherapy, doctors would have to operate, and her hopes of graduation would be gone.
“I was terrified, and tried to not let myself think it,” she said. “But it was always in the back of my mind that all of this could go away.”
It stayed the same size, and doctors scheduled her surgery for after graduation.
Her recovery since ending chemo in February has been gradual, but hopeful.
“Some of the dreams that fueled me last August are still trying to resurface,” she wrote in the ACU newspaper, The Optimist.
The tumor still hurts her sometimes, but not as much as before the chemotherapy. On top of the chemo and the school during her last semester, fighting for energy to graduate, Thut also had to make up the schoolwork she missed in the fall semester.
And she made it. Thut learned just before deadline last month that she was cleared to walk the stage in cap and gown for her bachelor’s degree in convergence journalism.
Thut graduated magna cum laude with her friends Saturday in Abilene.
“It means the world to do this thing we’ve all worked so hard toward,” she said.
After the graduation celebration, though, there still remains the tumor embedded in Linsey Thut’s abdominal wall.
She will have surgery May 29 to remove it.
“It’s such a big area, they’ll have to restructure my stomach wall,” she said. “I’ll have a pretty long recovery time.”
Thut said she gathered strength and support from her faith, family, friends and, naturally, Taylor Swift. In the music star’s new song New Romantics, one line says, “We’re too busy dancing to get knocked off our feet. … The best people in life are free.”
That lyric “resonates with the way I felt about this situation” because “I decided to let God take care of everything and I just made the most of my senior year the best way I could,” Thut said.
Mark David Smith, 817-390-7808