SWEETWATER COUNTY—On October 5, Green River residents Ken and Ashley Johnson’s two-year-old son James was life flighted from Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County to Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City where James was diagnosed with Leukemia.
What was initially thought to be a bad infection turned out to be B Cell Lymphoblastic Acute Leukemia. After blood tests, the doctors found cancer cells in James’ spinal fluid, determining that the cancer was in his spine.
Diagnosis “Felt Like a Punch to the Gut”
“When James was first diagnosed it felt like a punch to the gut. The whole day seems like a movie, but instead of watching it I was living it and did not know how to stop it,” Ashley said. “When the doctor came in to the room to tell us the diagnosis I broke down.”
James Has Undergone Several Tests
James has spent nearly one month in the hospital between his diagnosis and testing positive for the common cold on October 12.
“When he gets sick it is worse for him because he does not have an immune system to help him fight off the sickness,” Ashley said. “Thankfully, his immune system has recovered now that we have started the next phase of treatment.”
Since James’ diagnosis, he has gone through several lumbar punctures (spinal taps), bone marrow tests, and blood tests. He was in and out of the hospital during October either with the cold, or with severe side effects from his chemotherapy treatments, or in need of blood or platelets.
Dealing With the Diagnosis
“We have been dealing with his diagnosis day by day. Some days he is like his old self and some days he is in pain or just really tired,” Ashley said.
“We are lucky enough to have a family that has been looking after our children so we can get into a routine and understand James’ diagnosis and his treatment plan.”
On October 20, the Johnson’s received some good news regarding James. The third lumbar puncture in a row came back negative, which means the Leukemia blasts that were in his spine are gone.
The Johnsons received results from some bone marrow tests on November 7, which came out as negative, meaning that James is technically in remission. However, James is still making weekly visits to Salt Lake City, and he is still undergoing oral chemo treatments.
Treatments Will Go On for Three and a Half Years
“James’ treatment plan is going to be for the next three and a half years. Currently he is in what is called consolidation,” Ashley said.
During the one to two-month consolidation phase, treatment intensifies in an attempt to rid the body of remaining leukemia cells. Ashley and Ken must give James a chemotherapy drug orally every day until mid-December.
For the next seven to eight months, they will have to travel to Salt Lake City every week for James to receive lumbar puncture procedures and have clinic visits to check his numbers and how he is responding to treatments.
“Once these next phases are over, we will go into maintenance phase and he will go once a month for treatments and procedures,” Ashley said.
James is “Like a Ray of Sunshine”
Throughout James’ battle with leukemia, Ashley said he has remained in good spirits, handling his diagnosis with strength.
“James has been the same happy, wonderful, playful kid since we started and got his diagnosis. He is like a ray of sunshine,” she said.
How to Help
There will be a fundraiser at the McDonald’s on Sunset Drive, located at 1687 Sunset Dr., in Rock Springs, on Thursday, December 14. The fundraiser will be from 5 to 7 pm, and 15% of the proceeds will go to the family.
There will also be tip jars at the drive-up window and inside the restaurant.
“Heal Cancer” T-Shirts
A bible study group with the church the Johnsons attend, the Ordinary Faith church, has organized a fundraiser for James by selling t-shirts.
The t-shirts are part of the Wear Orange For James campaign. The shirts have “Heal Cancer: For with God nothing is impossible” printed on them. The “HE” in Heal and the “CAN” in Cancer are highlighted in orange to spell “He Can”, as orange is the color for Leukemia awareness, and the group believes God can heal James’ cancer.
All the t-shirt proceeds will benefit the Johnson family.
The church group has set a goal to sell 50 t-shirts which will raise a little over $500 for the Johnsons.
“He is a sweet boy who is only two years old and full of life,” church group member Hannah Lucero said of James. “We are just thankful to be able to help in any way we can.”
To purchase a shirt, click here. Shirts can be ordered until December 10. The shirts are $20 each. There is also an option to simply donate without the purchase of a shirt.
There is also a GoFundMe account that people can donate through. The GoFundMe page can be found by clicking here.
Prayers for James Facebook Page
People who want to read about James’ journey, as well as stay updated on how he is doing, can visit the Prayers for James Facebook page by clicking here.
The Johnson family are grateful for all the kindness and care they have received since James was diagnosed.
“I just want to say thank you for all the prayers and thoughts during this difficult time,” Ashley said. “We are thankful to live in a community that helps its own and is so caring to want to help.”