Raleigh girl's cancer fight now a quest to help others

ABC11 Together highlights the strength of the human spirit, good deeds, community needs, and how our viewers can help

Andrea Blanford Image
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Abby's Army
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A 6-year-old girl is inspiring others.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- ABC11Together is highlighting the good deeds of a family turning their child's cancer diagnosis into a way to help others. It's called Abby's Army and a 6-year-old girl is the group's inspiration.

Abby Johnson, who just finished round two of four chemo treatments, walked around the packed pool deck eating a blue shaved-ice drink on Tuesday night. The little girl can't risk sharing the water with the other kids at the swim meet being held at her Raleigh neighborhood pool.


In January, Lisa and David Johnson took their little girl, a middle child of four, to their family doctor because of headaches that seemed to be getting worse. Within 48 hours of that appointment, Abby was undergoing a five-hour brain surgery to remove a tumor.

"They said it's cancerous," Lisa recalled, choking back tears. "So you know, then you Google and you think the worst. It's the scariest, worst moment."

Ever since that day, Abby has been in and out of Duke Hospital. The tumor is gone and radiation is complete. But chemo treatments keep Abby at Duke for two weeks every month, separated from siblings and friends.

"She's either getting sick or sleeping," said Lisa who stays the night with Abby while David takes care of everything back home with their three other children. "And then she wakes up, she's getting sick and sleeping. And it tears you apart aside. You know you want to be the person laying in that bed, not her."

One glance around at the swim meet and it's easy to see the event is dedicated to Abby's Army.

Swim coaches, parents, and young swimmers alike sport purple t-shirts with the Abby's Army logo and her favorite animal, a panda, on the front. Some even dressed up the shirts with matching purple fedoras and feather boas.

"We're fortunate to have just an amazing community around us to help us get through everything," David said.

The shirts, created by family friend Mike Sundheim were originally meant to help raise awareness and money to cover Abby's medical bills. Now, her parents have turned Abby's Army into a non-profit providing supplies to other pediatric cancer patients at Duke.

"You see people that have been there for two months," said Lisa. "You see people that are just coming in that are just as scared as we were when we first found out."

Even though their daughter's fight isn't over, the Johnsons are counting their blessings, hoping to help other children just like her. They said money raised through Abby's Army will go to buy items such as iPads and toys and welcome kits for young patients and their families.

"To be able to provide that to just make the day a little easier for them," Lisa said.

The Johnsons are hoping Abby will be finished with chemo and back at school as a first-grader in the fall.