California Neighborhood Brings Teen To Tears With Social Distancing Parade Celebrating Her Last Chemo Session
During a time like this, receiving some good news is more than welcome.
And a young woman's neighborhood organizing a socially distant parade to celebrate her last chemo treatment is exactly the sort of story the world needs right now.
15-year-old Courtney "Coco" Johnson from Pasadena was diagnosed with cancer in her leg last June, right after graduating from eighth grade. Her family explained she experienced pain in her leg for several weeks before visiting the doctor, who soon discovered she had a tumor—specifically an Ewing sarcoma—in her lower left femur.
As a result of the discovery, Johnson stayed home with her family—mother April Danz, father Kelly and brother Parker—for her first year of high school. She continued to homeschool along with going through two surgeries and more than two dozen sessions of chemotherapy.
Johnson was candid about her experience:
"There was a lot of time that I just wasn't feeling well for many days at a time."
But her mother, Danz, said her honesty was always delivered with an air of positivity:
"She really didn't let it get her down. We've had some low moments, but she never felt sorry for herself. She hung in there and did it with a smile on her face."
Johnson did all of her chemo treatments at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). This past Tuesday, she completed her final session at the children's hospital.
Usually, CHLA makes a really big deal about a child completing their final treatment. They bring out a bell for the child to ring and announce they're now moving on from being treated. And they always gather as large of a group of well-wishers as they can to send the child off.
But because of the need for social distancing, CHLA wasn't able to offer this big celebration to Johnson. She was only able to bring her mother, Danz, as her one visitor in the hospital.
Other than her mother and the staff seeing her ring the bell, Johnson thought that was the extent of her celebration.
Who wants a feel good moment during this madness?? My sweet girl finished chemo today. https://t.co/cckQtY6VrO— April Danz (@April Danz)1585100815.0
But Danz had other plans.
Danz spoke to her friend, Sonia Singla, about being unable to give her daughter the celebration she deserved after everything she went through. She felt particularly bad, because they had been talking about the ringing of the bell and a follow-up party with friends and family to celebrate.
Now none of that could happen.
Singla came up with the brilliant idea of having a small parade of cars outside, for Danz and Johnson to see on their drive back home through their neighborhood. She envisioned each person in attendance staying by their car, to observe the six-feet-apart requirement, while celebrating Johnson's return home from her last treatment.
Singla quickly texted and called a few friends from the neighborhood to share her plan and attempt to gather a few people for the welcome home parade.
But she didn't expect those friends to then make calls of their own.
To Danz and Johnson's great surprise, when they turned onto their street in their neighborhood, both sides of the street were filled with supporters, including friends, family and others who had turned up to support Johnson.
Many held up signs and gifts for Johnson to collect later, while others stood by their cars and waved and clapped.
Danz began recording the moment when they turned on the street, only expecting to see a few cars, but what she ultimately recorded was more heartwarming and exciting than she had ever expected. Danz said the moment was particularly special for her and Johnson because of all they had gone through in the preceding months.
"We've been pretty stoic for, honestly, 10 months and it was just the biggest emotional release to have her ring that bell and then turn the corner and see all these people who've been there for us."
Johnson also said she was surprised at the level of support she received.
"I was just completely overwhelmed. I wasn't expecting anything, and I was just so surprised and grateful that everyone showed up to celebrate me. It really hit me at that moment that everyone was there for me."
The video really gained traction and went viral after she responded to The Office star, John Krasinkski, who was looking for #SomeGoodNews stories.
Alright everybody, how about #SomeGoodNews ! Send me the stories that have made you feel good this week or the thi… https://t.co/dgKsAtN9F6— John Krasinski (@John Krasinski)1585161778.0
@johnkrasinski #SomeGoodNews my daughter, Coco, finished her final chemo treatment yesterday and our friends had a… https://t.co/Grhri0Bsel— April Danz (@April Danz)1585162350.0
Danz's video has been viewed over 3 million times.
Many have commented their support for Johnson, as well as their own need for good news right now.
@momuses @conservmillen @johnkrasinski This is what the internet needs more of— Bayou Boy (@Bayou Boy)1585231326.0
@momuses @jamesbardolph @johnkrasinski This is the best thing I've seen in 2020. God bless you and Coco!— Buy guns and ammo (@Buy guns and ammo)1585168211.0
@momuses @johnkrasinski This is so lovely. What an uplifting and wonderful post.— nc (@nc)1585193026.0
@momuses @johnkrasinski Way to go Coco! What lovely community— That effort (@That effort)1585252387.0
@momuses @johnkrasinski CONGRATULATIONS to Coco!! You are a STRONG and beautiful young lady! Remain STRONG throughout your life!!— Tre (@Tre)1585225658.0
Johnson said she's been busy reading the positive comments.
"All the thousands of comments are so nice. I've been reading all of them."
Danz said she knew why their story was so well-received and that it had everything to do with the ongoing pandemic.
"I think it struck a chord in the country right now because people are needing to lean on others and get to know their neighbors."
The world definitely needs more good news like this right now, and hopefully we'll keep hearing more good news like this in the coming months.
If you need a little good news, try Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition: All Your Favorite Original Stories Plus 20 Bonus Stories for the Next 20 Years, available here.