Commentary

Frese's son wraps up chemotherapy

Tyler Thomas, 5, will get his blood checked regularly for the next year and a half

Originally Published: December 13, 2013
By Mechelle Voepel | espnW.com

If you had to pick one word to describe Brenda Frese's coaching style, it would be "positive," right?

Not to sound trite, but that's the very first term that jumps to mind. Other words would work, too: encouraging, optimistic, enthusiastic.

[+] EnlargeBrenda Frese
Courtesy of Maryland AthleticsBrenda Frese's son, Tyler Thomas, just ended three years of chemotherapy treatments for leukemia.

This is not to say that she isn't a disciplinarian, or doesn't get on kids when necessary if they aren't playing well or hustling as they should.

But the image you immediately see in your head when the Maryland women's basketball coach is mentioned is her standing on the sideline, nodding, clapping and sending out good vibes to her players.

Likewise, with every public mention of her son, Tyler Thomas, and his battle with leukemia, Frese has been similarly upbeat. One can imagine that in private, she and husband Mark Thomas have shed tears and had their low points of fear and worry. There is no worse emotional pain than that felt by a parent or guardian of a sick/injured child.

But Frese has always talked about Tyler winning against the disease and about how he received terrific medical care at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg Children's Center. You can surmise that 5-year-old Tyler both inherited and was inspired by his mom's buoyant attitude.

This week, Tyler, his family -- including twin brother Markus -- and his caregivers celebrated the end of three years of chemotherapy treatments. Earlier this year at ACC media day, Frese talked about how much she was looking forward to Dec. 10, when Tyler would reach this treatment summit.

She also said the leukemia diagnosis of North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell just before the start of this season had "hit home" with her.

[+] EnlargeBrenda Frese
Courtesy of Maryland AthleticsTyler Thomas was diagnosed when he was 2 years old.

"She's always been so gracious and generous asking about Tyler," Frese said then. "We know she's going to fight this and come through."

Frese had Markus and Tyler during the 2008 season, on the February day the Terrapins (coached by assistant Daron Park) beat Duke, in fact. Tyler was diagnosed when he was 2, then began treatment.

In January, Tyler will have the port removed from his chest -- it was implanted when he was diagnosed and has been used to administer his chemotherapy treatments and for blood draws -- and he will need to have his blood checked regularly for the next year and a half.

"Once he gets through that, he will be deemed 'cured,'" Frese said in a statement this week. "After that, he will get annual check-ups at Johns Hopkins.

"We can't thank the amazing people at Hopkins enough. They are simply all unbelievable. We also want to thank our family, friends, and our Maryland family for the support and love over these last few years as we reach this milestone on our journey."

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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