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Oro Valley teenager who fought cancer becomes published author

Posted at 9:40 PM, Jan 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-27 16:53:39-05

An Oro Valley teenager is getting ready for his first book signing this weekend. With the help of Make-A-Wish Arizona, Austin Thacker is a published author.

On Saturday the 19-year-old will host the book signing at Barnes & Noble.

For Thacker typing on the computer isn't tedious or mind-numbing, but an escape. He was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2013. 

"It was cancerous tumors in my head, spine, ribs, kidneys and a mass the size of grapefruit wrapped around my main artery to my heart," Thacker said.

He had to miss a year of school for chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. Six months after that transplant, Thacker started his freshman year at Ironwood Ridge High School.

It was all overwhelming, he said, and he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

"I was heavily tormented with all these different thoughts and angers and emotions, and it got so bad to the point where I couldn't even be alone," Thacker said. "So I just got on the computer and started typing."

And he didn't stop. What started as a 10-page essay turned into a more than 200-page novel called "My Hand Mitten."

Make-A-Wish Arizona was able to connect him to a publisher to get his novel published. It's a fictional tale of a Tucson Police officer and a teenage drug addict.

"A big theme in my novel is control, because at the time I had no control and I just had to go with what the doctor said and go for it," Thacker said. "So it took me about a year and a half of writing and it was slow writing because I didn't want it to end." 

When Thacker was sick he wrote in journals. Even as 2nd grader he says he liked to jot down stories in notebooks and writing continued to help him after cancer treatments.

Thacker beat the odds and is healthy and back at school. For the last few years he's worked with Rare Bird Lit, a publishing company in California, to get his wish granted.

He will have a book signing on Saturday, January 27th at the Barnes & Noble at the Foothills Mall at 1 p.m. Thacker also works at the bookstore, and that's where he told Make-A-Wish organizers about his wish. 

According to a press release from Make-A-Wish Arizona, Thacker is donating the proceeds from the book back to the organization to help kids like him.