This oft-heard quote sums up how the people closest to Tyrine Willis Johnson view her—with awe. On the surface, Tyrine’s story is fairly common. She juggles marriage, motherhood, and work and, when she can, contributes to her community or squeezes in a little time for herself. What people do not know about Tyrine’s story are the many odds she’s beaten in her young life.
Tyrine was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. When she was 11 years old, Tyrine entered the foster care system. After graduating from high school (a milestone only about 50% of all foster children reach), she met and fell in love with Michael Johnson. No, not the track star, but another Mike Johnson who quickly became Tyrine’s star. They had their first child, Arielle, in 2003 and settled into family life.
In 2005, the couple had another baby, Keico. They were initially saddened to hear that Keico had Down’s Syndrome, but they quickly reached a place of acceptance (a milestone many people don’t know to strive for, much less reach). The young Johnson family learned more about how to help him and carried on. In 2006, they welcomed another baby, Chyanne, and married in 2007. India and Jarsheem came along in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Needless to say, Tyrine and Mike were quite busy over the 6 years from their first to their last child!
While finances were tight, they have always been hard workers and team players. Mike apprenticed in heating and refrigeration and has subsequently started his own business. Tyrine has worked in fashion retail but has always considered motherhood her most important job. From what we’ve seen, she deserves an award! You know that mom who bakes homemade birthday cakes and makes Halloween costumes? How about the one who has Bible study with her children or takes them to the park on a regular basis? Yes, Tyrine has done and continues to do all of these things and it’s obvious she finds joy in them. She and Mike, like most parents, focused on putting their children’s needs before their own and were taking life one step at a time.
In December 2010, another large obstacle was dropped onto Tyrine and Mike’s path. During a routine self breast exam, Tyrine discovered a lump in her right breast. After the turn of the new year, she had a lumpectomy, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, and endured chemotherapy and radiation. A double mastectomy followed less than a year later and, a few months after that, a hysterectomy to ward off uterine cancer which is closely linked to the form of breast cancer doctor’s found. At this point, Tyrine was 27.
In 2013, doctors discovered a lump in her left breast and, sure enough, the cancer was back. She submitted to radiation and, this time, the treatment seemed to have worked. Over the last four years, she has valiantly fought to get and stay well, nurture her family through her pain, and even return to work against her doctors’ advice. She’s endured countless invasive procedures, marital stress, near financial ruin, and a stint in a homeless shelter. Through all of this, Tyrine’s journey has been marked not only by her courage, but her graceful presence. To be sure, she’s had times when her spirits were down and it seemed like life’s assault might never end, but she always bounces back and, more often than not, she's the one encouraging and comforting those who have rallied around her!
Unfortunately, cancer can be a silent, unpredictable, and heartless companion. Just before Christmas 2014, Tyrine found another lump and learned that her cancer has metastasized and progressed to stage 4. She started chemotherapy the day after Christmas with Mike and the children by her side. Her doctors have advised her to leave work and spend as much time with her family as possible. Tyrine, now 30 years old, is wisely heeding their advice to slow down which will allow her to be even more present in every moment. She has expressed two simple wishes --a photo shoot for herself and a Disney vacation for her family. Tomorrow is not promised to any so we should all take action toward our goals; however, Tyrine’s diagnosis has made her more keenly aware that there is no time like the present to make your dreams come true.
If you are like us, Tyrine’s story has moved you and may have compelled you to do something, if for no other reason than to avoid feeling powerless against an unseen, deadly foe that has touched too many of our lives. A group of family and friends have come together to help Tyrine accomplish her goals. The photo shoot is pretty well secured and we’ve considered reaching out to foundations for the Disney vacation. Sadly, the wait, due to high demand, can be very long and time is of the essence. We believe that between family and friends, we have the resources to give the Johnsons a Disney vacation they will all remember and cherish. We’ve created:
This GoFundMe account to raise money to help Tyrine and her family spend at least a long weekend at Disney World.
A brief survey to identify other resources that we might have in our circle. We are looking to pool frequent flier miles and identify anyone who can help fund hotel, rental car, and food expenses (possible through corporate donations). Please take a minute to let us know if you have any relationships that may be helpful (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XRCMMRQ).
More important than contributing to this effort, we solicit your prayers, positive thoughts, and encouragement. Doctors do the best they can with the limited knowledge they have, but we believe God has the final say. Please pray for healing to be manifest and for strength to bear whatever comes. This we know is true…we are our sister’s keeper.
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- Tanisha Robinson
- Tanisha Robinson
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