By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/17/15
Tyler Johnson is excited about competing with Team Minnesota this weekend in the prestigious Nike Philly Freshman Showcase.
“I really feel like we will show what we’ve got here and show them that Minnesota lacrosse is good,” said the East Ridge (MN) freshman midfielder.
Just five months ago, Johnson, who had recently turned 14, was reeling with the stunning news that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Nodular Lymphocyte Predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a rare form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Johnson had no symptoms, but felt a lump under his right arm. Even though the cancer had spread to his spleen and spine, it was caught early. Within a week, Johnson was enduring chemotherapy.
“The doctors were surprised I (had the diagnosis) because I was feeling fine and really didn’t have any symptoms,” said Johnson. “I remember my first (chemo) session was really powerful. They wanted to kill it right away and keep it away.”
As fast as the cancer came, it went even faster. A month ago doctors performed a scan and told Johnson he was in remission. He said his age and the fact he is so active played a key role in his swift recovery.
“They said the signs weren’t really there so I didn’t see it coming,” he said of the cancer. “I was most disappointed that I couldn’t play lacrosse in the summer after 8th grade.
“But they said it (the remission) happened so quickly, probably because I am in such good shape and because I am really active.
“I was very excited when I heard (he was in remission) because then I could play everything and start to get back to normal. The chemo would make me really tired and weak, but after 3 days I would feel better and I could hang out with friends and do normal stuff.”
Johnson barely missed any days when he entered East Ridge High, but he did become a bit of a celebrity.
“Almost everyone in the whole school knows (about me),” he said. “The players on my city team shaved their heads and then once I got cleared everybody was really happy and excited.”
Johnson said he played in his first lacrosse games about three weeks ago. He will be ready Sunday when Team Minnesota competes against the nation’s top teams.
“I think I am close to full strength right now,” he said. “I feel good. I played in a tournament (2015 HEADstrong Face-off Against Blood Cancer Lacrosse Tournament) and I didn’t feel like I had fallen behind.”
Johnson, who also plays football (cornerback and wide receiver), said he has not let the illness hold him back. “I just felt like it was a roadblock; now I got past it and started playing again.”
Johnson is looking forward to making the trip East to Philly. His mother will join him there.
“It should be really fun,” he said. “I just hope that we can run with them and get a couple wins. I’m not going to be thinking about what happened; I’ll just play normal.”
“Getting open and in space and dodging with both hands,” he said. “I like looking for the open people.”
Community support for Johnson has been strong. Besides shaving their heads, his community team players from Woodbury United, were donning TJ#9 decals on their helmet and wearing purple uniforms, the color for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma awareness. There’s also a GoFundMe website (www.gofundme.com/tylerjohnson) where anyone can donate to help the family with costs. One donation of $2,870 was made by the HEADstrong Lacrosse Club of Minnesota from the proceeds of the Face-off Against Blood Cancer Lacrosse Tournament.
Tyler’s Caringbridge site – http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tylerjohnsontj