Bill Thoryk was driving home from Sam’s Club on Oct. 15 when a phone call delivered the news: His daughter, Taylor Thoryk, had a rare and aggressive form of cancer called acute myeloid leukemia.
“It took me a good 15 to 20 minutes extra to come home. To actually get it in my train of thought,” he said. “This can’t be happening.”
The Thoryks made immediate arrangements to begin their 17-year-old daughter’s chemotherapy at the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger in Danville.
Bill Thoryk said he accompanies his daughter for the duration of her three-to-four-week treatment sessions. Doing so means taking considerable time off from his job as a corrections officer, adding to the family’s strained finances, but the community has stepped up to help, including Taylor’s soccer coaches, Mike Davitt and Deb Stevens of Wyoming Valley West. Together they organized Bowl-4-Tay, a play-for-fun fundraiser to benefit the Taylor Thoryk Foundation.
“We’re both bowlers,” said Stevens, “and we thought it would be a great way to raise money.”
The fundraising event has already sold out of tickets for bowling, and will occupy all 40 lanes of the Chacko’s Family Bowling Center on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m.
Caitlin Hargrave, one of Taylor’s best friends, said some of her family members are attending the event to make donations despite being unable to bowl. The organizers hope others will do the same. They hope to attract the attention of those willing to purchase T-shirts or enter raffles for a chance at a laundry list of prizes and themed baskets
Hargrave, who described Taylor Thoryk as “bubbly, happy and always laughing,” said the two have been playing soccer together since they were “like 11.” She said she vividly remembers the day she learned of her friend’s diagnosis.
“I denied it for about two minutes straight,” Hargrave said.
That night, Hargrave said, she talked to a hospitalized Thoryk over the phone.
“I was crying and she told me to stop,” Hargrave recalled. “And then she started crying.
“It was basically both of us crying,” she laughed.
Hargrave said she was able to visit her friend only once during treatment because she had the flu and didn’t want to jeopardize Thoryk’s recovery.
Both at home and in the hospital, Taylor maintains a Twitter account, which she updates almost daily and fills with the retweeted well wishes of her friends and her own positive messages.
“I didn’t let this get to me,” she said. “I have to stay positive.”
She said a neighboring patient, confused by her constant smiling, once asked a nurse, “Why’s she so happy?’”
But she admits that she has bad days.
“And even on her bad days she’s always smiling,” her father adds.
Her smile is apparently so infectious, the nurses at Janet Weis frequently ask for what Taylor said they call a “Taylor Smile.”
When not playfully punching her 14-year-old sister, Lauren Thoryk, Taylor expressed enthusiasm about the series “Pretty Little Liars,” “Teen Wolf” and “Duck Dynasty.”
“I like HDTV,” she confessed, partially attributing her infatuation to the time she’s spent bedbound or stuck at home. To otherwise pass the time, Thoryk assigned nicknames to her medications.
“The chemo’s ‘Chester,’ ” she said. “Benadryl’s ‘Big Old Ben.’ Ativan’s ‘Al.’ ”
The Thoryks expressed continuous gratitude for the support they have received from the community.
“From everybody. Just everybody,” said Bill Thoryk.
“They don’t give up,” Taylor said of her supporters. “I don’t know how I can say thank you.”
Taylor Thoryk begins her final in-house admission for chemotherapy next Thursday.