We recently released CURE Childhood Cancer’s 2010-2011 Annual Report and have received amazing feedback from many members of the community. (To read the Annual Report, please click here.) One of the things we were most excited to share are the stories of some of CURE’s children. Today we would like to highlight the courageous story of Julius Johnson.
In a marathon with the infamous Roadrunner you’d have to bet on Julius Johnson. This non-stop 3 year-old ran all day and into the night on sheer spunk. And no naps. He was chasing his beautiful little life, asking always, “What’s happening tomorrow?”
Then, in October 2008, came a tomorrow with its cruel answer. First, Julius complained of leg pains. Then came the naps which Julius had never needed. When rampant tooth decay and a reoccurring virus set in, Latacha Johnson, Julius’s mom, had x-rays, blood work and more tests performed by different doctors. Nothing serious showed up. Until December 2008, when Julius was diagnosed at age 3 with two forms of cancer. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Latacha had to face the blunt force of the diagnosis alone. But so did her husband — away at a distant job. Julius’s dad, Ray Johnson, after 6 years in the military, had taken on satellite communications contract work in Iraq, Alaska and Florida to meet family financial challenges. Three children, new mortgage, school loan, guardians of a nephew. And now, the monster — childhood cancer. Ray was home in four hours to help begin the fight.
Fighting through the paralysis of shock came first. Ray could barely talk. Latacha kept a brave face … after she wept in the shower daily. Julius began chemotherapy, defiantly smiling while enduring.
CURE staff members met with the Johnsons to help direct and support them on their journey with childhood cancer. Helping them deal with realities. Fortifying their hope with the evolving cure rate of this disease. Latacha remembers, “CURE was right there to help give our boys the best Christmas they ever had.”
Within 4 weeks of treatment, Julius mercifully was rid of ALL. The AML was growing seriously and a bone marrow transplant would be necessary. A blessing came with the discovery that Julius’s 9 year-old brother Quincy was a match for the transplant.
Ray had to return to work in Florida to keep the family’s health insurance intact. Latacha strained irrepressibly to keep things together at home. To hold on to her full-time job. To keep a brave spirit at the hospital right up to the day of the transplant, while the grueling AML treatments stole the spunk from little Julius.
For the moment, the bone marrow transplant was successful. In June 2009, Julius was declared 100% cancer free. And he’s running into every Tomorrow. Ray, now working in Afghanistan and taking nothing for granted, hugs his family over the phone nearly every night.
And Latacha. She never buckled under the enormous weight of the financial stress, the necessary absence of Ray, her full-time job, on-line college courses, children’s schooling and welfare and the gauntlet of home and hospital.
In her words, “Thank you, God, for never leaving me … for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I have a mission and passion to help others who are suffering like we have.”