Community stands behind teenager fighting brain tumor

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SOLON, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) – Solon 8th grader Chandler Johnson is an active teen, but when his movement started changing last winter, his family looked into it.

“He started having trouble with his right hand a little bit, we noticed that more and more. His strength and condition coach pointed out that maybe there’s something wrong with his right side,” Chandler’s father Spencer Johnson said.

That meant a trip to the chiropractor, pediatrician, and inevitably a MRI. The doctor called Chandler’s mother the next day.

“What she told me after that was pretty much a blur, because when you hear it’s not good, and you hear they found a mass on your son, on his spinal cord and in his brain, everything pretty much went in one ear and out the other,” Angela Flockhart said.

“As a dad that’s the absolute last thing you want to hear. I’d rather I go through a brain tumor. You don’t want your 14-year-old whose just starting life to go through anything,” Johnson said.

Chandler met with the head neurologist at UIHC the next day. He had no fluid coming from his brain to his spine. He had also lost some of his mobility to both sides of his body.

“He basically said your son is in a lot of trouble,” Flockhart said. “I was told if they do not do surgery right away, we would have four to six months tops left with him."

Doctors had to bump Chandler ahead of other patients and preformed his surgery just five days later.

“We didn’t want him to go into surgery with any thoughts other than I’m going to get surgery, and I’m going to get better,” Flockhart said.

That’s when she shared his story on her Facebook page. From that moment there was widespread support across the community.

“Never in a million years when I put my first Facebook post out expected all of these people to come together,” Flockhart said.

Community members made Gofundme pages, sold bracelets, delivered food, created t-shirts, sent care packages and more.

A big part of the support came from his four best friends. Along with their coach, they were able to get famous athletes like Brett Farve and Jordee Nelson to send Chandler well wishes.

“His friends have gone 100% out of their way,” Flockhart said. “The day after we found out about Chandler, I sat them all down at the school and told them very honestly what was going on. That was the hardest conversation that you can have with a group of 14 year old boys.”

His friends knew they had to be there for him.

“When we first found out it was really impactful to us, because nothing like this has ever happened to the squad. We all just got into a room and talked about how we felt,” 8th grader Erich Karsten said. “We just acted like normal, played video games, at pizza, acted like normal. We’re not doing anything special, we’re just being good friends and coming together.”

Chandler’s surgery went well. Doctors determined the tumor was not cancerous and planned to shrink it with radiation. Chandler has had treatments five days a week ever since, but his spirits are high.

“I just try to live the same way I was living before,” Chandler said.

“I know he’s a strong kid. God made him big and strong. He’s bigger than me and he’s got the determination to beat this. I put all my faith in God and we’ll get through it,” Johnson said.

Chandler’s last radiation treatment is April 24. After that doctors will re-evaluate for the next steps.