As a high school football coach, Andy Stokes has helped his athletes face and overcome numerous challenges on the gridiron.
His wife, Tia Stokes, focused on helping others overcome challenges through her charitable dance teams Kalamity and Kaos at The Vault dance studio in Orem and St. George. Their efforts have raised almost $600,000 for 50 different charitable causes since 2007.
Now, however, the Stokes family finds itself on the other side as it is now facing an devastating challenge of its own.
Tia Stokes was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia last week, which according to http://cancer.org is “a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes abnormal myeloblasts (a type of white blood cell), red blood cells, or platelets.”
“We found out Friday,” Andy Stokes said in a phone interview Monday. “One of my assistant coaches, Josh Arnold, is a doctor and he started taking care of Tia last week. She had been feeling sick off and on since December but he started doing blood tests and X-rays. On Friday afternoon he came to our house and informed us that things didn’t look very good and that the oncologist wanted her to go straight to LDS Hospital.”
He said it was a shock to the family but they weren’t thinking it was cancer. They followed the instructions, leaving their five children with family as they went to the hospital.
The restrictions that are in place as part of efforts to limit the risk of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, meant that Andy Stoke couldn’t go into the hospital with his wife.
“No one is allowed on the cancer floor and they have the bare minimum of staff there,” Andy Stokes said. “We basically had to leaver her at the entrance and go. It’s been tough to say the least — but she is a tough girl.”
He knows that Tia Stokes is a fighter who will face this challenge like she has others in her life.
“Everyone who knows her knows her energy,” Andy Stokes said. “She wants to help everybody and make sure everyone is taken care of. That’s kind of her life mission. She just lights up everybody’s world. She is the one person who can beat this thing because her whole life motto is we can do hard things. The kids in the studio say that everyday.”
Andy Stokes is tremendously proud of everything his wife has accomplished.
“I think her whole message of life is to be the change, be the difference for other people,” Andy Stokes said. “Tia has essentially been raising money for other people forever. When we got married, we started a company that created a nonprofit dance studio that put on concerts for people who have calamities in their life. That’s who Tia is. We are doing all that work but we never thought it would hit home.”
The first person to benefit from the charity work was a dancer in the company who had leukemia, Andy Stokes said.
He said that even now as she faces a tough battle with cancer, she is still looking at it as an opportunity to have an impact.
“She’s using this platform to help other people in the same situation and that it’s OK,” Andy Stokes said. “People can fight together and she can inspire people from this place. Making people’s lives better is always where she pushes.”
He said that the first steps for Tia Stokes resulted in some positives.
“Everybody who has bone cancer like this starts with the same treatment process,” Andy Stokes said. “Depending on how your body reacts to that, then they move on to whatever the next step may be. It’s serious. She had quite a few cancer cells in her bone marrow and in her blood, so we got her in there in a good time. She started the chemotherapy Sunday and the tests are showing it is working — but it’s a tough one for adults to beat.”
Even in just a couple of days since getting the difficult news, Andy Stokes said the support from so many has been overwhelming.
“She has a huge community of people behind her, praying and fasting for her,” he said. “We can feel it. The response has been unbelievable and we are so grateful. We’ve been doing fundraisers for 12 years, but you never put yourself in the shoes of those people. People want to do anything they can do to help. It’s humbling. It’s quite an experience to see people’s humanity and their love for their fellow man.”
A GoFundMe page (see info box) was started on Saturday to support the family financially and as of Monday afternoon it had already raised nearly $30,000 with donations from nearly 400 people.
“Tia is a force for good!!!,” the GoFundMe organizer Cambria Hauck said on the page. “She is absolutely AMAZING!!! I know so many people want to give back and the best way we can support her in this time is faith, prayers, fasting, and financially! Anything helps as she starts her journey to kick cancer!!! I know this is a long shot, but I would love to match the amount she has raised for so many families through the years, $600,000 I know miracles can happen!!! Please pray and fast!!!! Let’s do this!!!! As Tia has taught so many to say, ‘I got this!!!’ ‘I can do hard things!!!’ ‘God is amazing!!!!’”
Hauck added that she will post updates on Tia Stokes’ progress on the GoFundMe page as it becomes available.