My Relay for Life story


My Relay for Life story

By David Johnson

I was in the Air Force in April of 2003 when I was notified that I had to go off to serve in the Middle East for 1 year.  My wife and two young children, ages 9 and 11, were not happy about it but we knew that part of serving my country could involve long absences away from each other so we swallowed hard and prepared for the 12 month separation.  I was scheduled to leave in August, 2003, so we made preparations for my departure during the months that followed.  In July, 2003 I received more news.  My mother, who had just turned 60 in July, was notified by her doctor that a quarter-sized shadow was found in her left lung.  It was cancer and needed to be dealt with swiftly.  Chemotherapy treatments were scheduled to start immediately in August and would continue for 3 month.  So on August 7, 2003 I boarded a plane for the Middle East and kissed my mother goodbye knowing she was preparing to undergo the hardest fight of her life.  From August to December she underwent the treatments with the assistance of my other family members in the area.  During this time I received word that my next assignment when I returned from the Middle East would be to Anchorage, Alaska.

In December 2003 after the chemo treatments were done, my mother went in for a check and was declared cancer-free.  My family celebrated with tears in our eyes and we prepared to move on to the next chapter of our life.  Then, in January 2004 my mother became very ill.  A doctor’s visit revealed that the cancer had come back.  Not only that, but the cancer had spread from her chest to her back…and to her brain.  Over the next several months we resumed the fight, but early on in the spring we were given the diagnosis that the cancer was becoming aggressive…and that my mother would not last much longer.  In May, my mother was moved in to a hospice.  I argued and screamed at my brother and sister that I wanted to fight this disease and get my mother back.  My brother and sister then explained to me that at this point the doctors had said we just wanted to make her comfortable.

In June, 2004 I started the preparations to cancel my next assignment and to find a place closer to my mother.  I received this assignment and was scheduled to go to Warner Robins, GA as soon as possible.  On July 1, 2004 I was flown back home and went to visit my mother.  She was in a hospice bed, barely conscious, and not able to carry on a conversation or look around the room.  I reached out to her over and over again.  Calling her name until she was able to acknowledge that I was there.  Eventually I was able to hear her say my name and know she was aware I was there with her.  Nine days later on July 10, my mother passed away.  At her wake, the pastor said something I’ll never forget.  He said we all prayed for my mother to be healed of the cancer.  That we prayed for her to not be in pain anymore.  He said our prayers had been answered and he was right.  My mother had been cured and was no longer in pain.

I swore on the day of her wake that I would fight, from that day forward, so that no one would ever have the last images of the ones they love be of them in a hospice bed unable to communicate.  I joined the fight against cancer and almost every year since then I have participated in the Relay for Life.  I’m asking you to join in that fight.  Please help us defeat this disease.  To join, please visit or contact the Relay for Life of Fort Walton Beach at