Illusionist Criss Angel’s son beats leukemia and takes up rock climbing
There is so much resilience and strength in the smallest of cancer warriors. And famed illusionist Criss Angel, 54, and his wife, Shaunyl Benson, 30, have been in awe of their eldest son, Johnny, who has now beaten leukemia not once, but twice.
Eight-year-old Johnny Crisstopher officially completed treatment for his acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January this year. Since then, he has been having fun with his family by his side to celebrate all that he has achieved and overcome.
In a recent Instagram post, Benson shared photos and videos of Johnny, his little brother and his rock climbing with an adorable caption about his brave boys.
“Watching my big boy be fearless and try new things is so magical,” the proud mom wrote. “2x cancer warrior – rock face? No worries 👊🏾 little brother following suit 😎”
Johnny Crisstopher’s Leukemia Battle
When Johnny was just 20 months old in October 2015, he was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. After three years of treatment, her cancer went into remission.
What is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)?
Then, in December 2019, Angel announced that her then 5-year-old son had relapsed and would be starting chemotherapy treatments again. Now, with the last of his cancer treatments behind him in January, Johnny and his family are relishing in the excitement of post-treatment bliss.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Benson shared his thoughts on his son’s relentless positivity despite having to battle the disease twice.
“He’s such a soldier,” Benson said. “He never said, ‘Woe to me, Oh no, poor me.’ Instead, Johnny says, ‘Okay, I guess I have more to do. “”
Johnny’s type b acute lymphoblastic leukemia required a total of 1,095 chemotherapy sessions. At such a young age, Johnny was forced to face the harsh realities of a long battle with cancer and recognize that his childhood was different from that of his peers.
“As Johnny got older – obviously he’d been doing this since he was very young – when he started to realize what was happening to him and all the other kids didn’t have port, they would go to treatment He would say to me late at night, ‘Mom, why can’t I be a normal boy?’ “Benson said. “I was always encouraging him and saying, ‘You’re an ordinary boy. You just have a different mission now.
“The first thing he said to me after ringing [signaling the end of his last cancer treatment, again]: ‘Mom, I’m a real boy now.’ I said, ‘Honey, you’ve always been a real boy.’
“I try to stay strong, but sometimes you need to cry”: playing the role of caregiver and mom
And although the treatments were difficult, Johnny never ceased to amaze his family with his vision for everything.
“He just has this beautiful spirit and this beautiful attitude,” said the 30-year-old Australian actress, singer and songwriter. “I’m so proud of this boy. They are children, however. Children with cancer are just another type of human. They are super special.
“Our son went through this twice because he believed in himself,” Benson said. “Yeah, he’s got a big family behind him but at the end of the day, he’s the one wearing the cape and believing he can fight this battle. He’s the one who has to do this.”
Through it all, Benson and Angel have been determined to share Johnny’s story to raise awareness of childhood cancer and raise funds for Angel’s Child Cancer Foundation – Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation – which had previously been created but was renamed after Johnny’s diagnosis.
“We work closely with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Children’s Oncology Group. 100% of funds go to research and pediatric cancer patients,” Benson explained. “In 2016, Criss hosted a great event and raised over $1 million for childhood cancer. This is something else that we will be doing again in the future.
Leukemia, in general, is a blood cancer that develops when the body produces large amounts of abnormal white blood cells. These cells prevent the bone marrow from producing any other type of cell, including red blood cells and platelets.
“A cell got really selfish and decided it had to use all of everyone’s resources and in doing so took space and energy from the rest of the body,” Dr Nina Shaha hematologist at the University of California, San Francisco, explained.
What is blood cancer? How is it different?
More generally, blood cancer means that your bone marrow is not working properly.
“And when your bone marrow isn’t working properly, that means something can happen to you like anemia,” she said. “Or you may have a low platelet count, which makes you bleed easily. Or your immune system isn’t working properly.
Symptoms of leukemia can vary depending on the type of leukemia. Common signs and symptoms of the disease include:
- Fever or chills
- Persistent fatigue, weakness
- Frequent or severe infections
- lose weight without trying
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Recurrent nosebleeds
- Tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae)
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Bone pain or tenderness
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