Awareness • Early Detection • Treatment • Research • Survivorship


This love story is about the youngest of seven children Sarah (Sharon) Johnson. She was born to Henry and Sarah Simmons of Monticello, Florida on December 14, 1961. Cynthia was born January 7, 1961 so the two were eleven months apart and grew up together (inseparable) from the time they were innate. Sharon was quiet, yet strong, a beacon of life, athletic and a fighter for life. She was a beacon of light to all in her path. She ate healthy and was conscientious to eat a healthy diet and get a physical when required. How, could she be facing a diagnosis of lung cancer?

The older sister Carolyn was eight years older so her role in their lives was more maternal until we became adults. The relationship then grew into the strongest friendship ever. Sharon married and traveled extensively to different cities. She settled in Virginia and there is where she was able to visit the family more often. Each city she lived Cynthia and Carolyn would visit her with their families. Sharon has two sons ages 27 and 19. When they were younger she and Cynthia would plan vacations and family reunions together.
On January 29, 2010 Sharon called to tell Cynthia she had a pain in her leg. She had tried several treatments that did not work. She went to the doctor and he told her she had a blood clot. He had her to treat the clots with Lovinox shots. This was not helping the pain and in a few days she had excruciating pain in her left arm and had to be taken to the emergency room. They found clots in her arm and had to be hospitalized. On February 9th her fiancée sent a text message stating she was adjusting and he would stay in touch with us. They had given her heparin to control the clots.

On February 14th she began to have chest pains. On the 15th we received a text message stating they found more clots on both lungs lower bottom lobes. Her levels had increased some. We broke down and cried and wondered what was causing these clots. Cynthia traveled from Atlanta to Virginia the next day. When we arrived the children and I went to her bedside. We could not wait to touch her, hug her, and let her know how much we love her. When the doctors could not determine what was causing the clots to move around, the specialist ordered a full set of tests which included CT scan, EEG, EKG, and MRI. They observed a spot on her lung. They conducted the lung biopsy on the lower lobe of her lungs.
The results were due back at the end of the week; however, they told her on Thursday while her fiancée was with her that she may have cancer. They plan to do a PET scan. She shared the news with us later that evening. When she fell in my arms with the news we couldn’t believe our ears. We grabbed her tightly and were in shock we told her we would go through this together and Satan would not have this victory. My sister’s faith was unshakable. She truly believed God would heal her. She NEVER smoked; therefore being told you have lung cancer came as a shock. That was the case with my dear sister Sharon in January 2010, when she received the devastating news – stage IV non-small cell lung cancer.

She was genetically matched to the pill Tarceva. She began taking it in March. Her oncologist did a pet scan in July and the results were clear.
Carolyn and I began alternating months to visit to take care of Sharon. During the visits she and I would reminisce over our childhood memories, watch movies, and watch her favorite tennis channel. We would take her to get her manicures and pedicures. She loved when her pastor would come serve her holy communion. Carolyn would take her riding, shop for her needs and desires of her heart. We would have her favorite fish dinners, do errands, perform any household chores, and simply chat and have giant laughs.

We thought of the best medical facilities that specialize in cancer. The three sisters visited each facility; Duke Hospital, Durham, North Carolina, followed with lunch, in addition we visited Sloan Kettering lung center, New York, N.Y., both physicians were optimistic. The experts said the medicine Tarceva was suitable for her cancer and she should be fine. We were rejoicing. The New York trip holds a special memory. After the Doctor visit at Sloan’s Sharon called us to her room and embraced us tightly. She said how much she loved us and could never express enough gratitude for all we have done and continue to do for her. She said she knew for sure she would not be where she was in her recovery without our love and unwavering support and generosity.

We spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family. I remember Sharon coming in the kitchen where Cynthia and I were preparing dinner for Christmas, she came and joined us for a few minutes to give a hug (the three of us embraced endlessly) and thanked us for everything, and we replied “we would not have it any other way”. Nonetheless, we rang in 2011 with gratitude “Happy New Year” as a threesome. I recall the Saturday that Sharon shared her personal affairs with me advising that I was her administrator. My weekends were consumed diligently with compassion, love, and commitment for my baby sister (Sharon) who is so missed that no words can begin to neither describe nor explain.
She planned to return to work after Labor Day. Sharon was an avid tennis fan and watched the tennis channel. Her favorite pastime was reading books. Her dream was to attend the US Open in New York to see her favorite Tennis players Roger Federer, Nadal, and the Williams sisters. She was able to attend the Open in Flushing, NY Labor Day 2010.

She returned to work in September. Shortly after she began work she began to have chest pains in October and had to be hospitalized. The symptoms were similar to pneumonia. Her oncologist decided to take her off Tarceva. He said he couldn’t be sure if the medication was causing the fluid buildup and didn’t want to chance it causing more complications. During October and November he allowed her to prepare for chemotherapy. She asks if she could participate in a clinical trial. He told her by the time she could locate one to participate in she would probably have six months to live. When she was to start her chemotherapy in November she was told the cancer had spread to three spots in the brain. She began radiation treatment and the spots were eradicated. At the age of 49, with the support of her family on January 7, 2011 she began chemotherapy for the treatment of Stage IV lung cancer. We would visit with Sharon and take her to the doctor appointments.

In April when we took her to her last treatment she asks the doctor for her prognosis. He seem hesitate and she told him if he could not promise her ten years to live she didn’t want to know her prognosis. We along with cousins had planned our 50th birthday celebration in May 6, 2011. Sharon doctor tried to encourage her to attend, but she refused because it was the week her 2nd round of treatment was to begin. Her Oncologist knew she didn’t have long but would not share that information with us. Even her last week in the hospital he said to her that when she got stronger she could return and begin treatment. However, he had told her there was no cure and the chemo was to make her comfortable. Sharon desire for life, love for her family and her faith would not allow her to accept this prognosis. The chemo would leave her exhausted, nauseated and stole her energy. This fight lasted for only a short (six) 6 months.

After her passing I called her team of doctors and ask what the cause of her death was. The oncologist shared that the cancer had returned to the brain. They commended her for being such a miracle patient she was truly a beacon of light, hope and inspiration to all in her path. She stayed positive and always had a smile on her face. The earth has truly suffered a great loss. She lived past their professional expectation.
Cynthia and Carolyn are dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and enhancing the importance of critical funding for lung cancer research by shattering the misconception that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease.” We have raise funds and participated in several 5K walks with the Free to Breath Foundation. We miss Sharon each day and is so grateful that God allowed us to be encompassed of her fifteen month journey. We know we will see her again. Her spirit will live forever.

We were blessed to have Chris Draft speak at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, Georgia on December 2nd. He shared the story of his wife LaKeasha Draft and how he is raising funds and awareness through changing the face of lung cancer.