Mandy Johnson spoke exclusively to FirstforWomen.com about her young daughter's battle with cancer. This is part 1 of her inspiring story. You can read part 2 here.
Kaitlyn Johnson was just 18 months old when bruises started appearing on her body.
"We first thought she was low in iron," her mom, Mandy Johnson, of Royse City, TX, admitted of the toddler who was perfectly healthy until that point.
They made a doctor's appointment for less than a week later. But the night before she was set to go in, she started running a fever.
The next day at the doctor, Kaitlyn had blood drawn. Within 30 minutes, Mandy was in tears.
"They told us that we needed to go straight to Children's Medical Center about an hour away in Dallas because Kaitlyn was showing signs of leukemia. I just started crying and couldn't believe it," Mandy said. "My husband’s grandfather had kidney cancer, but that was the only cancer in either side of the family."
It was November 11, 2011 when the little girl was officially diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Doctors at Children's were expecting Kaitlyn when she checked in through the ER.
"She cried so much from them starting the IV she cried herself to sleep." Mandy said. "But she was so much stronger than I was. There were times I thought we wouldn't make it to the next day. Then, I would look at her and think she is fighting so hard, so I can fight with her."
The cancer went into remission in March 2012, but to make sure it stayed away, Kaitlyn continued chemotherapy treatment for a total of two-and-a-half years, followed by monthly checkups.
In July 2014, when Kaitlyn was 4, the family headed back to Children's in Dallas for one of those routine appointments. She hadn't been acting sick, so the Johnsons were stunned to receive devastating news. The cancer had returned. So they did what many loving parents would do--they went home.
"We wanted to let her have fun with her friends for the weekend," Mandy said. "But we had told her that her cancer had come back and we had to fight like a girl and kick cancer's butt again."
That Sunday, they packed a bag with a week's worth of necessities for their hospital stay. But they wound up not being able to leave for 45 days.