BY JAMES BRIGHT
ROYSE CITY —
It’s hard to find anyone whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer. It’s a disease that is no way uniform except for its devastation and its shockingly potent ability as a unifier. Families come together in ways they never thought possible, doctors and nurses become like family and strangers become close friends.
This unexplainable, but amazing event is currently surrounding the Johnson family of Royse City. James and Mandy Johnson were leading normal lives until their 18-month-old daughter Kaitlyn Renee was diagnosed with leukemia on Nov. 11.
“Our pediatrician walked in kind of teary eyed and told us that Kaitlyn’s blood work made them think it was leukemia,” James said.
Kaitlyn’s health was pretty typical of an 18 month old leading up to the diagnoses. James said he and his wife started noticing bruises on Kaitlyn that did not go away, so they decided to make an appointment with their pediatrician. The night before she was to see her doctor Kaitlyn spiked a fever and developed a rash, but the Johnson’s never considered it to be anything more than a simple illness.
“When we were told Mandy immediately started crying,” James said. “ I was hoping it was a mistake in the test. I thought ‘they’ll send out the blood work and it will end up being nothing more than a scare.’”
Kaitlyn’s doctor told the Johnsons they needed to go to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, and they needed to go right now.
“When we got there it was an overwhelming experience,” James said. “We were welcomed immediately and within 20 minutes we were meeting an endless line of doctors and nurses.”
Kaitlyn was admitted and the quest to figure out how to help the little girl began, but the tragic 24 hours that the Johnsons had just endured still seemed surreal according to James.
“We noticed a playroom with all the other children who were obviously sick and that hurt,” he said. “Everything happened so fast. The reality was forced on us. We came in and they were ready to help our daughter.”
James began posting updates on Facebook about Kaitlyn and her trials. One of his friends notified Lubbock bakery owner Brittney Moses about the situation. Moses reached out to Fort Worth’s Baked and Caked owner Jody Cain via Facebook who took it upon herself without ever meeting the Johnsons to do every thing she could to help the family. Cain contacted friend, and owner of Rowlett’s Absolutely Edible Cakes Nikita Jackson for help.
“I called Nikki (Nikita) and before I could even finish the story she said ‘we will do whatever we can to help her,’” Cain said.
The duo of bakery owners quickly set up a website – teamkaitlynrenee.com – for donations and started an auction on the site Saturday. Cain also started contacting multiple news organizations, music channels and Dr. Phil in an effort to help the girl.
“I wish I could wave a wand and this would all be gone,” Cain said. “There is nothing worse than not being able to take care of your own baby.”
James said the help he and his family have received from the two women is overwhelming.
“There are just so many people who in a matter of days have gone from friend of a friend, to friend, to almost family,” he said.
James works at Terrell hospital as a psychiatric nurse’s assistant and Mandy is a dental assistant in Quinlan. James said his parents told him that he has good insurance, but he is still uneasy.
“Every time I turn around our premiums have gone up, or our policy has changed,” he said.
Although James said he is curious how the billing situation will work out it is not a primary concern at the moment.
“Our daughter’s health is first and everything else is secondary,” he said.
Right now Kaitlyn’s regimen of chemotherapy is every eight days. Mandy said this will be the cycle until the end of December and then the doctors will re-valuate. The overall cycle will last two-and-a-half years.
Jackson said she believes that people will jump to help Kaitlyn once they know her story and situation.
“I compare giving to investing,” she said. “The only difference is if you invest your money you may lose it, but if you give, and give from your heart God will not let you down.”
Currently, 20 percent of all items bought at Jackson’s bakery will be donated to Kaitlyn and her family.
Kaitlyn’s second round of chemotherapy took place on Nov. 21. Those who want to donate can do so at teamkaitlynrenee.com.