Radio personality Maria Dennis announced on the air Thursday morning that she has just been diagnosed with leukemia.

Dennis is one third of the popular "Maria and The MIX Morning Show with Reagan and Jon." She explained her three-week absence from the show to listeners on the CBS affiliate WWMX-FM by describing how she initially went in for a routine colonoscopy.

"My blood work came back all over the ballpark, and they didn't know why," Dennis told her co-hosts Reagan Warfield and Jon Boesche on the Top-40 station. "So they did further tests, one thing led to another, and they decided that I have A.L.L., which is leukemia. It was a shock to me."

Since the broadcast, thousands of get-well wishes have poured into the station in messages that have been texted, left on the station's Facebook site and tweeted under the hashtag "#getwellmaria."

"This town is rallying around Maria in the biggest way possible," Warfield said in a telephone interview.

"It's just wild. Before the broadcast, I told her, 'Get ready for a lot of love to come your way,' and it's been 10 times what I expected."

Dennis said during the broadcast that she doesn't know when she will be released from the hospital. Her main concern, she said, is helping her 7-year-old and 9-year-old sons cope with her absence and prepare for changes in her appearance.

She helped the boys retrace the route from the hospital entrance to her room. She also piled her long blond hair under a hat to demonstrate how she might look if chemotherapy leaves her temporarily bald.

"I said to them, 'You know what? I'm going to lose my hair,' " Dennis told her co-hosts. "I brought a hat out and said, 'Look, this is what I'm going to look like.' … They were like, 'Oh, O.K., Mommy.' "

But, Dennis said, she knows that her hair will grow back, and she's determined to beat the cancer for her sons' sake.

"My main thing is: I gotta be OK for them," she said. "I gotta be OK for my boys. They need me."

The morning team recently was chosen as the "best radio personality" in the Sun Magazine's Readers' Choice Awards, and Dennis said she'll call into the morning show from her hospital bed when she's feeling well enough for a chat.

"She has the best attitude, and she's so strong," Warfield said. "We're ready for her to fight this and to put it behind her and to get back in the studio where she belongs."

Listeners can send get-well wishes to Dennis through the station's Facebook page at facebook.com/Mix1065morning or through the mail at Maria Dennis, Mix 106.5, 1423 Clarkview Road, Baltimore, MD 21209.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com