Alex Johnson was a happy-go-lucky 6-year-old boy who never had any health problems, so when he started experiencing back pain and a sore throat in 2012, his mother knew something was wrong.
“Our doctor checked for strep and influenza, and they both came back negative,” Jamie Johnson, Alex’s mother, explained. “We headed home while the lab ran the results thinking it wasn’t anything major. The nurse then called and said they needed to see us immediately.”
Lab tests showed that Alex’s white blood cell count was 63,000 – the normal range is 5,000 to 13,000. He had leukemia.
“I told the doctor there must be some mistake and to run the blood again. He said they ran it three times,” said Jamie. “The doctor told us to go home, pack our bags and head to Children’s Hospital in Omaha, which is three hours away from our small town. We didn’t realize that we wouldn’t be returning home with Alex for a whole month.”
Alex was diagnosed with high-risk, T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), an aggressive form of blood cancer. The cancer was moving fast. By the next day, his white blood cell count was up to 90,000.
“Alex began chemotherapy right away,” said Jamie. “He endured eight months of harsh chemo, about 20 spinal taps, numerous blood and platelet transfusions, and cranial radiation.”
After more than three years, he completed his treatment in May of 2015. Alex is now 17 years old, a junior in high school with a 4.0 GPA, and is heavily involved in student organizations. Although he is cancer free, he still suffers from some neuropathy – a side effect from chemotherapy.
Most childhood cancer survivors experience a lifetime of chronic health challenges or even secondary cancers due to the toxic treatments used to save their lives. CureSearch for Children’s Cancer is accelerating the development of safer, more effective treatments for children like Alex.
“I first learned of CureSearch because the name was on our treatment plans that detailed the various drugs he would be taking,” said Jamie. “We looked into CureSearch and loved how most of the funding went straight to research.”
In 2013, the family began participating in the annual CureSearch Walk, an event that honors and remembers those affected by cancer, and supports the development of new treatments. Their team, “The A Team,” was the top fundraising team in the nation for the 2022 CureSearch Walk, raising more than $10,000 for next-generation research. To date, they have raised more than $140,000.
“If you saw Alex today, you would never guess all that he endured,” said Jamie. “We feel that every child deserves a future and want to help give back for other children like Alex. That’s why we support CureSearch.