Taylor Swift’s Song That Made a Difference

How one mother’s blog about her terminally ill child led to a hit song by the superstar singer.

Ellen Byron
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In the fall of 2011, Maya Thompson, a mom of three in Phoenix, got a phone call she’ll never forget. A representative from singer-songwriter Taylor Swift was on the line, telling her that Taylor was sending Maya tickets to an upcoming concert. It turns out Taylor, 22, was interested in Maya’s son Ronan’s battle with cancer. Maya was stunned. “It was out of the blue,” she recalls. 

Holding on to hope
In August 2010, Ronan was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, a tumor of the nerve tissue that controls bodily functions like heart rate and blood pressure. It’s one of the deadliest childhood cancers. “I was in shock,” Maya says.

Ronan’s treatments included surgery, chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and radiation. “The poor little guy,” says Maya. “All of a sudden, his head was being cut open and he didn’t know why.” Maya couldn’t accept that her beautiful young boy was terminally ill. “As a mom, you have so much hope,” she says. “I always felt like I loved him so much and he loved me so much, how could that not be enough?” Ronan died at age 3 on May 9, 2011, surrounded by his mom, dad and brothers.

The song that’s making a difference
Maya’s blog, which she named Rockstar Ronan, quickly went viral. It was a picture of Ronan’s sweet face and startling blue eyes that caught Taylor’s attention. Like others, Taylor was moved by the little boy’s fight for survival. Last August, Taylor stunned Maya by telling her she’d written a song about Ronan and would debut it at the televised “Stand Up 2 Cancer” benefit in September. Some of the lyrics of the song, called “Ronan,” came from Maya’s blog:

“I remember the last day, when I kissed your face and I whispered in your ear, ‘Come on baby with me, we’re gonna fly away from here… You were my best four years.’”

Maya and her family watched the show at home. “There were a lot of tears,” Maya says. “Ronan” hit No. 1 on the iTunes sales chart.

Proceeds from Maya’s share of royalties will go to The Ronan Thompson Foundation, which will fund research on neuroblastoma treatments. Maya’s dream is to open a neuroblastoma treatment center for children.

In the meantime, the Thompsons are adjusting to life without Ronan. Maya gave birth in April 2013 to a daughter, Poppy. Says Maya, “This baby is going to bring sunshine back into our lives.”        

February 2012