By Mike Tucker, Jr
Journey Butler is not your normal teenager. Sure she knows all the new dances and latest technology and styles but you won’t see her glued to an electronic device or television. The 13-year-old is a cheerleader, a gymnast, a poet, a Hip Hop and ballet dancer, model and a member of the nationally competitive double-dutch jump rope team dubbed the Greenbelt S.I.T.Y. Stars. She is also an aspiring rapper. View this adorable video about ratting out her older brother called “I’m Telling.” Journey also lights up every room she enters with her endearing smile.
As carefree as children can be, a parent’s world is just the opposite. We have to manage stress at the job and home while still finding time to take our children to every activity and social event possible. The last thing a mother or father wants to be confronted with is an uncontrollable variable like harm, negative health diagnosis or bad grades.
Not too long ago while Journey was preparing for both a cheerleading and dance competition she began to complain about back pain. Wear and tear to an athlete’s body is a given so the Butlers thought to have her medically evaluated. Sadly at the hospital Brian and Camille had to face their worse fear. The discomfort and aching that Journey was experiencing had to do with a previously undiscovered stage 4 cancer above her left kidney.
Journey was diagnosed with renal medullary carcinoma (RMC), a rare and highly aggressive form of cancer affecting young Black patients that carry the sickle cell trait. The cancer grows — many times undetected — behind the kidneys until it’s almost too late to do anything to combat the chronic disease. The average survival rate for patients with RMC is 12 months but few survive more than two years.
“February 11, 2016 was the day,” explained Journey’s dad Brian Butler. “We received the diagnosis on my birthday, a day I always think about my mom who I lost at the age of 16. She died from kidney failure, so when the doctor said Journey had a kidney cancer I lost it. Then they said it was stage 4 and that she only has a 10% chance of surviving.”
The cacophonous crash of everything around the Butlers left their ears ringing and vision in a haze trying to make out what happened. How? Why? A proud dad and husband, Brian only wanted to provide for and protect his family. Although he initially felt stripped of that ability Brian has found a new strength and increased faith.
“It’s crazy. I thought I would have died inside but at that moment I said “No!” Nothing is impossible and we will win. We just have to go back to what’s natural and God’s design will reboot itself.” The Butlers changed to a vegan diet and have adopted a healthier and knowledge-based lifestyle to educate and encourage parents feeling hopeless and helpless.
Her journey to happiness is about spreading awareness about RMC, sickle cell and cheering for those with cancer to keep fighting and smiling. There is no cure for RMC yet but early detection can help by way of knowledge of the disease, its symptoms and getting tested to see if the sickle cell trait is present. Journey’s family has a GoFundMe page #JourneyToHappiness to assist them and encourage against this lethal opposition.
Fit Fathers will bring awareness to RMC through an extensive social media campaign which includes a video, an online fitness challenge and promotion of #JourneyToHappiness. Fit Fathers will also donate proceeds from supporters of www.FitFathersDay.com to the Butler family and the RMC support group which helps families cope with the disease (www.rmcsupport.org).
Thank you all and let’s wish Journey Butler an energetic and exciting “Journey To Happiness” as she rises above RMC!