Jamaya's Journey

Marrow Match Needed to Save Teen's Life

Written by Tina Hooper, Public Relations Director at LifeShare Blood Centers

Today I had the opportunity to meet two very special and strong ladies. I would like to introduce them to you.

Jamaya Johnson

Michelle Johnson is the mother of four girls. Her daughter, Jamaya is battling cancer for the third time. Through two years of treatments at St. Jude’s, these ladies have endured more than many of us will during a lifetime. Countless blood and platelet transfusions along with her medical treatments put her in remission twice. But, this time her daughter is in need of a marrow donor and finding a match may be one of the most difficult tasks they’ve faced yet. Because finding a match isn’t up to them, they must rely on others to register as a marrow donor and be willing to give.

But Michelle didn’t come to complain, cry or gain sympathy. Even with this news, I walked in the room today to find Michelle bright, energetic, strong and determined; and Jamaya, a sweet, soft-spoken young lady came with a letter she’s allowed us to share:

“My name is Jamaya Johnson. I have had cancer three times in the last two years and it’s really been hard on my family and I. We have been trying to put together a bone marrow drive and we’ve been struggling to do that. I have three sisters Jasmine, Janae, and Jayana . . . Jayana is 2, Janae is 17, and Jasmine is 19. Me, myself, and I am 14.

We have to leave my sisters behind a lot and that’s not good for Jayana I feel, but we have to do it. . . But anyways, I have mixed cellular Hodgkin's Lymphoma and it’s a rare cancer that usually comes in boys and it just so happens that I have it.

When I found out I had cancer again I didn’t want to fight, but I told my mother that I wouldn’t talk like that and I would fight so that’s what I’m doing now. Every day I wake up to love my sisters, mostly Jasmine. Her and my mother keep me going. But I just want to do better, not for myself but for my family.

Most of the time I’m scared I’m not going to wake up the next morning. So I pray every night that if I don’t, for my family to have a better life. We haven’t done a fundraiser before because we haven’t needed them, but this time we really need help.

My mother mostly works doubles to make money and sometimes still doesn’t have enough to do what she really needs to do. I watch my mother break her back working every night to try and keep a roof over our heads. She doesn’t even complain about it. I wish I could just take my mother out of her work and work for her. On top of all this, we are still trying.”

We are working with Michelle on a community-wide Marrow Registry Drive, Nov. 24. To register, you use a Q-tip-like swab to wipe the inside of your cheek and fill out paperwork to be tested. A marrow donor will NOT need to have surgery to donate to her. Most often marrow matches are found in someone with the same ethnic background. The Johnsons are asking anyone eligible to come register (see marrow registration eligibility guidelines here). They are also seeking additional donations and sponsors for the Marrow Drive. If you cannot register on Nov. 24, you can come to a LifeShare Blood Centers during open hours. The process takes less than 10 minutes.

Michelle Johnson may be reached at or 901-335-5731.

KSLA visited with Jamaya last week. Click the link to see her story: Jamaya's story.

UPDATE: After going into remission twice, Jamaya unfortunately lost that battle on Sept. 11, 2013. During her life sharing her smile with family and friends, she also brought attention to the importance of blood donation and the marrow registry. Her time in treatment included countless blood donations that gave her more time to do the things she loved.