Mandy Johnson's only child Kaitlyn was diagnosed at 18 months with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She went into remission during two-and-a-half years of chemo, only for the disease to return when Kaitlyn was 4. This is part 2 of her inspiring story. You can read part 1 here.
Little Kaitlyn Johnson had beaten cancer once, and she was ready to do it again. Six months of intense chemotherapy had robbed her of her beautiful blonde hair, but more sadly, it didn't kill the cancer. That's when her family made a tough decision.
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"Despite all efforts made by her doctors at Children’s Dallas, Kaitlyn is still producing leukemia," her dad James Johnson wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to defray medical costs--and make up for the fact that he and his wife Mandy couldn't work because of their caregiver roles. "After lots of discussion with her doctors and with doctors from around the country, Kaitlyn has been accepted in to a clinical trial at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia."
Doctors from Stand Up To Cancer, an organization that supports the development of new, high-risk, but potentially high-impact, treatments, would put Kaitlyn through T-cell therapy. It would retrain her immune system to fight cancer. They'd remove Kaitlyn's T cells from her body, infect them with modified HIV, the virus that usually causes AIDS but can't bring about disease in this version, then put them back into Kaitlyn's body, now armed with the ability to identify and destroy cancer cells.
"The level of fear and anxiety in the household are indescribable as the treatment date approaches," James wrote on the GoFundMe page.
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The trip to Philadelphia didn't go smoothly--a flight delay caused the family to miss their connecting flight in Atlanta, Kaitlyn's fever spiked and they had to hospitalize her overnight there, and then bad weather grounded planes so the family had to DRIVE 16 hours to Philly. But after three T-cell infusions, Kaitlyn was on the road to recovery--with few side effects.
Though Kaitlyn's ordeal meant she had to miss going to preschool, she was healthy enough to return to Royse City, TX, and enroll in kindergarten--and graduate.
"Now that she is cancer-free, we enjoy watching her be a kid and play outside with her friends," Mandy said. "Though the second time was a little hard because she knew more about what was going on, we had a great support system through friends and family. We just kept saying we will fight this and win again."
And they did.
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