ST. GEORGE — Amid the chaos of battling cancer, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of unexpected news – Madison Thornton was pregnant. Yet, this glimmer of joy is tinged with apprehension as treatments meant to save her life threaten the fragile life growing within her.

L-R: April Sevy, Kris Schwiermann, David Schwiermann, Madison Thornton and Miles Thornton take a family photo in St. George, Utah, March 11, 2024 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Accompanied by her husband Miles, parents Dave and Kris Schwiermann and April Sevy, Madison recounted the moment her world shifted irrevocably, her voice trembling as she spoke.

“The way I found out about the cancer and then the pregnancy has … been really hard emotionally,” she said. “I basically found out I had cancer over the phone.”

Upon being assigned an oncologist, Madison, 25, of St. George, was provided with a nurse navigator who serves as the intermediary between her and the doctor. Her nurse navigator pushed her to come in for an appointment the following day, but Madison insisted she couldn’t drop her work responsibilities to make that happen.

Miles and Madison Thornton smile together for the camera, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of April Sevy, St. George News

“And she’s like, ‘Your results came back cancerous, so you really need to come in,’” Madison said. “It was hard to hear that. And I was at work, too, when it happened.”

It was approximately a year ago when Madisn first noticed swelling in one of her lymph nodes near her collarbone. Seeking medical advice, she visited her doctor, who initially suspected a connection to her thyroid due to other accompanying symptoms, which included weight gain and fatigue.

Following the ultrasound, which failed to yield definitive answers, she underwent a CT scan with contrast. Although this revealed an anomaly, its nature remained elusive, prompting a fine needle biopsy. Initially inconclusive at a local lab in St. George, the biopsy was then sent to a facility in northern Utah, where the diagnosis of malignancy was confirmed.

In the following weeks, Madison faced the sobering reality of her condition. Meeting with her oncologist, she underwent a PET scan, from which she learned the cancer had infiltrated much of her upper chest. Despite these revelations, the exact type of cancer remained a mystery.

Doctors did see something in her uterus but weren’t sure what it was, she said. She had a bone marrow biopsy and was scheduled to have a chemotherapy port put in at the same time. During the biopsy, the results of her blood test revealed elevated hCG levels. 

As she emerged from sedation, she instinctively reached for the expected port in her chest, only to find it absent. Puzzled, she turned to her husband Miles for answers, who revealed the unexpected news — she was pregnant.

Miles and Madison Thornton take wedding photos, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of April Sevy, St. George News

A subsequent ultrasound verified her pregnancy, indicating that she was four weeks along. Concerns arose due to the potential risks of prolonged conscious sedation and the amount of radiation she had just endured. The bone marrow biopsy used a CT machine to guide the needle and she was injected with radiation for the PET scan. 

“We had been convinced it would not be a viable pregnancy and that we should just terminate early on,” she said. “Obviously that’s not something I wanted to do but they had kind of convinced me, and we were leaning towards termination.”

Opting to consult with both their regular obstetrician and a high-risk specialist along with a fertility doctor, they learned about the potential impact of radiation on the baby. Doctors explained that radiation posed a binary risk: either triggering a miscarriage or having no effect whatsoever. Fortunately, they found themselves in the latter scenario, with the radiation having no adverse impact on the pregnancy so far.

“It’s kind of bad timing for the baby, but at the same time, I think it’s probably the perfect time,” Miles said. “It’s the one thing that makes this better. It’s going to make it all worth it in the end when we get through it.”

“It’s turned out to be a blessing, but it’s definitely been hard,” Madison added. “She’s healthy so far, so things are going really well.”

A graphic provides details of the upcoming Flash Sale Fundraiser, which will raise funds for Madison Thornton | Photo courtesy of April Sevy, St. George News

A biopsy of the lymph node was conducted to determine the type of cancer, resulting in the removal of multiple lymph nodes. Subsequent analysis revealed her diagnosis: Hodgkin lymphoma.

Her condition was classified as stage two, as the observed abnormalities in her lower half were attributed to her pregnancy. Stage two indicates cancer involvement above the diaphragm. Considering her pregnancy, the doctors advised that the earliest feasible cancer treatments would be at 12 weeks, with a risk that treatment might adversely affect the baby or impede its growth. The couple opted to delay the start of treatment until the 20th week of pregnancy.

“The safest would be waiting until afterward, but we just wanted to stop it from spreading too far into my body,” she said.

On Feb. 29, Madison underwent her initial round of chemotherapy. She is scheduled to undergo treatments for the next six to seven months. She is currently 25 weeks pregnant.

The couple hoped to determine the baby’s gender early at 12 weeks; however, due to the presence of cancer chromosomes mingling with the baby’s genetic material, they learned that early detection wasn’t feasible. 

“We found out in December,” Madison said about the baby’s gender. “It’s a girl. We didn’t want it to be a surprise for us, because we’ve had enough surprises happening.”

Both Madison and Miles are directors at Chick-fil-A. She said the owner has become like a second father to them. His grace and understanding of their situation and the flexibility to still earn an income despite needing to leave for doctor’s appointments and treatments have been the greatest form of love, she said.

Madison also expressed gratitude for a local wig shop, whose grace and love have also had a significant impact on her situation. 

“I want to shout out Creative Wigs,” she said, sobbing. “When I first went in there, I was bawling my eyes out like this. And the first thing they did was come over and give me a hug. For me, one of the harder things about having cancer is going to be losing my hair.”

Miles and Madison Thornton take a photo together during an interview with St. George News, St. George, Utah, March 11, 2024 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Not only did they go out of their way to help her find what she was looking for by ordering multiple wigs to try on, but they also provided a discount to help ease her financial burden.

The impact of Madison’s diagnosis and pregnancy has rippled throughout the family.

“It’s been surreal,” her sister Sevy told St. George News. “It hasn’t sunk in all the way. It’s such an overwhelming feeling knowing what she’s about to go through just becoming a mother. But to know that she has to do this while struggling with cancer, I can’t even imagine.”

Kris, Madison’s mother, shared that upon learning of her daughter’s cancer diagnosis, she unexpectedly found a sense of peace.

“It’s been a bittersweet journey so far,” she said. “This community — wow. There are so many people that have come out and really supported (us) in so many ways. Not just through money (but) through a lot of prayers. I think that’s why she’s made it the way she has.”

Kris works at Riverside Elementary. One day, a fifth grader handed her a handful of $200 gift cards donated by their parent. A cook from the school donated $500 cash and the school is set to have charity bake sales in April.

Dave said the situation has been extremely difficult. Finding out about his daughter’s cancer first and the pregnancy later made it initially hard to be overly excited not knowing how chemotherapy would affect the baby. But like his wife, he feels at peace knowing everything will work out in the end.

Sevy talked about her sister’s strength.

“I’m really grateful she’s as strong and incredible of a person as she is because she’s going to be a phenomenal mother and she’s going to fight like hell,” Sevy said. “As much as she’s someone that definitely doesn’t deserve the trial, I do know that she’ll come out the other side of it.”

Sevy, a tattoo artist, initially envisioned hosting a fundraiser for her sister at her tattoo shop. However, as she dived into planning, the event blossomed into something even more remarkable. To date, 45 local businesses have contributed to the raffle drawing, while others have made direct donations.

“The community is beautiful,” Sevy said. “The amount of support and random strangers that have reached out and offered to donate or check in or make sure she has what she needs to become a mother is a really incredible thing.”

The Flash Sale Fundraiser will take place on Sunday, March 17, at Embellished Studios at 127 N. 500 East Suite D from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A flyer provides ways for the community to help | Photo courtesy of April Sevy, St. George News

Sevy and all other tattoo and piercing artists at Embellished Studios will donate 50% of all proceeds. A henna artist will be in attendance along with Chained & Charmed permanent jewelry. 

Chick-fil-A will donate cookies and fruit cups along with meal vouchers. The BBQ by Joe food trailer will be in attendance along with The Soda Rig. Minky Couture will donate a blanket for Madison’s treatments and a blanket for the raffle. Dandelion Wishes Studio made a custom jewelry piece for the giveaway and Madison.

“She has a lot of spiritual meaning behind her pieces,” Sevy said about Dandelion Wishes Studio. “They’re all infused and the stones all mean something. She created this beautiful velvet obsidian moon pendant with a rainbow moonstone next to it. It’s the idea that you can’t have the light without the dark and vice versa.”

Due to GoFundMe’s fees, the family requests donations go directly to Madison via her Venmo account @madison-thornton26. Those who wish to assist in her journey to motherhood can access her Target baby registry at this link. Vendors and small businesses who would like to donate or be part of the upcoming charity event can reach out to Sevey on Instagram or email

 My priority is providing as much support as possible,” Miles said. “I haven’t allowed myself to wallow in self-pity or dwell on our situation because I understand the importance of staying strong and keeping us moving forward.”

Event details

What: Flash Sale Fundraiser for Madison Thornton
When: Sunday, March 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Embellished Studios, 127 N. 500 East Suite D in St. George
Admission: Free
For more information see the event page

Ed. note: When making charitable contributions it is advisable to consult with professionals for tax advice and investment risks.

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