When pop superstar Taylor Swiftfinished her performance at the recent Stand Up to Cancer 2012 telethon, the audience’s eyes were not fixed upon the pretty blond singer. Instead their eyes were drawn to the picture of a little boy, with piercing blue eyes on the screen behind her.
On September 7, the award winning singer delivered an emotional rendition of what would become her next chart topper, “Ronan,” a tribute to Ronan Thompson, a 3-year-old boy who lost his battle with cancer a year earlier.
In Phoenix, Arizona, Ronan’s mother Maya, Irish American dad Woody, twin brothers Quinn and Liam and some close family were watching intently.
“It was bittersweet,” Maya Thompson told the Irish Voice during a phone interview on Monday from the family home.
“We were crying before she started singing. I couldn’t even focus on her words, I was so impacted by the emotion on her face.”
Holding back tears, Swift delivered her new acoustic song which was inspired by Maya’s blogs about her youngest son’s battle with cancer.
After her performance, “Ronan” quickly moved to number one in the iTunes chart. The song has been downloaded more than 327,000 times and has clocked up well over a million views on YouTube.
All money raised from the track will do to cancer charities, while Thompson’s share will go to the Ronan Thompson Foundation, a charity devoted to establishing a neuroblastoma research and treatment center.
The 3-year-old became the subject of Swift’s latest chart-topper after the 22-year-old singer read Thompson’s blog RockstarRonan.com.
The first signs of Ronan’s illness began in early August 2010. During the family’s annual trip to Maya’s parents' in Washington State, she noticed there was something wrong with Ronan’s eye. When the family returned home, Maya scheduled an appointment with their pediatrician.
After a referral to Phoenix Children's Hospital, Ronan was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma.
“That little boy tied our whole family together,” Thompson said.
On August 13, 2010, Maya wrote her first blog about Ronan’s illness.
“Neuroblastoma is very treatable and even curable. We have our plan in place, and the Thompson Family Combat Boots are on!” the mother of three wrote in her first post.
Thompson charted every aspect of Ronan’s fight with cancer through her blog. Posting almost every day about the struggles, her sorrow and heartache were evident. Ronan battled through several rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, all of which was documented by Thompson.
But on May 8, 2011, just three days before his fourth birthday, Ronan passed away surrounded by his family at a pediatric hospice in Phoenix.
“A cure begins with awareness and funding so I am going to work for the rest of my life on that part of all of this. All in the name and honor of my Ronan Sean Thompson. The brightest star in the sky,” Thompson wrote that evening.
While her blog was attracting a lot of readers, what Thompson did not realize was that Swift was also following Ronan’s story.
“She started reading my blog about two years ago and invited me to her concert in Phoenix,” Thompson explained. “She told how much Ronan’s story had impacted her.”
The next time the grieving mother heard from the singer, was when Swift called Thompson up a week before the telethon, a conversation she describes as surreal.
“She told me she had written a song for Ronan,” Thompson recalls. “I started crying immediately.
“She asked for my permission to perform it, with a picture of him in the background. She wanted to make me co-author of the song, as she had taken the words from my blog.”
Having not heard the song before Swift’s telethon performance, Thompson says she did not know what to expect on September 7.
“I tried to prepare but I had no idea it was going to be this big deal,” she said. “Everything Taylor does tends to turn to gold.”
Since Swift’s heartfelt performance, hits to Thompson’s blog doubled and awareness of the Ronan Thompson Foundation has also increased.
“I am waking up to hundreds of emails every day with people asking how can we help,” Thompson told the Irish Voice.
Thompson, who is pregnant with her fourth child, has vowed to help find a cure for neuroblastoma, the most common form of cancer among children under five.
“These kids deserve so much better,” Thompson said. “I am hoping maybe our government will step up to the plate.”
Thompson, who was about to pen a letter of thanks to Taylor Swift when she spoke to the Irish Voice, is
eternally grateful that the star’s song helped raise awareness to childhood cancer.
“I always knew something good was going to come out of something so awful,” she said.