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LeShon Johnson Battles Cancer

September 21, 1998

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ There are times when game days are tougher for LeShon Johnson to face than the chemotherapy to treat his cancer.

The chemo comes and goes, and it causes the tumor in the chest of the New York Giants’ running back to shrink even more. It started out the size of a grapefruit and it’s now down to the size of a quarter.

``Doctors can’t believe I’m healing so fast, and I’ve had only four treatments so far,″ Johnson said Monday in a telephone interview from his home near Giants Stadium, where the Giants were to play the Dallas Cowboys.

``I feel great,″ the 27-year-old added. ``I’m lifting and running and doing everything I need to do to stay in shape and be ready when my time comes to come back.″

The most likely scenario is next year, which makes this year that much harder to face.

Until doctors detected cancer in a routine chest X-ray in May, Johnson was looking forward to his first season with the Giants. One of the best conditioned athletes on the team, the former Arizona Cardinal was going to share the halfback job in Jim Fassel’s backfield and possibly return kickoffs.

Now Johnson just watches his new teammates on television _ but never for long. It’s like going to games, he doesn’t stay long because it’s still not wise to be around people with his immune system compromised by the chemo. It’s equally hard to watch and cheer when you want to be playing.

``It’s very tough,″ Johnson said. ``I’m sitting here watching all these other running backs having great games and I’m just sitting reminiscing, wishing I could be out there doing whatever to help the Giants win. I want to be on the field doing something. I worked so hard to get ready for the season and then this came along.″

The toughest day might have been the Giants’ season opener at home against the Washington Redskins. Johnson had a bad week leading up to the game and was not able to attend.

He watched the Giants’ 31-24 win on television. Well, at least parts of it.

``I kept flipping the channels because I couldn’t watch no more,″ Johnson said.

While Johnson could have flipped to a number of other football games, he didn’t.

``I couldn’t watch football, period,″ he said. ``I think I watched something stupid. I think it was cartoons. In fact, I know it was, ’cause my little girl (Kaleo) kept crying because I wouldn’t leave it on cartoons. I kept flipping back and forth. It’s something I miss very much and I can’t wait to be part of the team again.″

Sometimes that seems very far away.

``When I have certain things on my mind, I go out and play with Kaleo and Klayton, my kids,″ Johnson said. ``It just clears my mind and lets me be free and at peace.″

Johnson is scheduled to have another chemotherapy treatment on Oct. 7, when a CAT-scan will also be done to measure the size of the tumor.

``Since the first day I found this out I have never asked God once: `Why me?‴ Johnson said. ``I believe everything happens for a reason. Even when I was praying last night, I even said I don’t know what the reason is but I am still looking forward. Maybe it’s the way I believe, but I think something will come out of this positive.″

Seeing Johnson carrying the ball for the Giants sometime down the road definitely would be one of the best.

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