CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – “When things are bad, I go play soccer,” said 33-year-old Jasmine Johnson, “and this was pretty bad.”
Jasmine, who was raised in Clearwater, told 8 On Your Side’s Gabrielle Shirley she did not start playing soccer until she was 12 years old. She advanced quickly in her soccer career because of her speed.
“The coach was like, ‘You are extremely fast. I can teach you the skill. I cannot teach the speed so you are on the team,’” recalled Jasmine.
The school of her dreams, the University of Florida, took an interest in Jasmine about three years after she started playing the sport competitively.
“This is what I wanted since fourth grade,” she said. “This is where I am going.”
She spent the first two years of her college career as a Gator. Then, she transferred to Saint Leo University where her world suddenly stopped spinning.
“I felt fit,” she said, “and then, when games started, I was dead. I never had a recovery. I had nothing left in the tank.”
What was wrong? Jasmine vividly remembers a trainer calling her and asking her to leave class so they could talk about the results of a blood test.
“They are like, ‘They think you have leukemia,’ and I turned around and I walked out. I was like, ‘You have to be kidding me. I have done so much work here and I have wanted it so bad and, now, you are telling me this is it,’” Jasmine paused as the tears started to roll down her cheeks. “I remember thinking my grandma passed when I was younger from leukemia and I was like, ‘That cannot be it. This cannot be how things end.’”
Jasmine was only 23 years old, a junior in college, with too many milestones ahead of her.
“I thought that it was really important for me to finish school and I did not think I was going to have that chance,” she said through her tears.
She did finish school graduating less than four years after her diagnosis with a degree in psychology. She also continued to play soccer taking advantage of her final two years of eligibility
“I would rather die on the field than not play,” she said.
Jasmine, who balances coaching jobs with restaurant jobs, has struggled to get to a doctor to get the necessary medication. Her jobs typically do not offer insurance.
She summarized the vicious cycle.
“I get sick, back in the hospital, white count goes back up, feeling poorly, next medication – it has kind of been like that the past 10 years.”
After 10 years of hardships, Jasmine finally sees the potential for relief. She is scheduled to have a bone marrow transplant on August 25. Her mother, who is a half match, is expected to be her donor unless a perfect match is found before that date.
How is she feeling ahead of the transplant?
“Overwhelmed,” she admitted, “extremely overwhelmed. I want to continue living this month or so the same way and, at the same time, being optimistic that I will be better and I will not have to continue to worry about the leukemia taking my life. At the end of the day, hopefully, I am cancer-free.”
Jasmine is still trying to cover the cost of the transplant, of the care she will require following it, of the day-to-day bills she will need to pay while she recovers from the surgery. If you would like to make a donation, you can do it here.
Additionally, you can “Jog for a Match” with Jasmine Saturday, July 27 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The fundraiser will be held at Summerfield Soccer Field. The address is 11942 Big Bend Road in Riverview.
If you are unable to go to the fundraiser, you can still participate in the Be The Match Registry.