August 16, 1999
Eileen Johnson appeared with Richard Karn, of TV's Home Improvement, at the annual Stardays event which benefits cancer research.
Photo courtesy of the Johnson family.
[Editor's Note: At the age of 15, Eileen's stunning singing voice was threatened by a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. During her sophomore year of high school, doctors found a tumor the size of a golf ball and three pea-sized tumors on her thyroid. As doctors began to perform surgery to remove the tumors, they found more that had spread to her throat. The story of her recovery appeared in the April 12 edition of the Woodinville Weekly. The following is an update on Eileen's summer activities.]
by Eva Zemandl, special to the Weekly
She may not be attending classes at the University of Washington this summer, but 20-year-old Eileen Johnson is still leading a busy life.
On April 14, she sang the National Anthem at the Mariners game in the Kingdome. Eileen particularly enjoys singing "The Story Lives On," especially written for her by composer David Conley. She sang it at Richard Karn's prestigious Stardays event on June 22. The event is held each year to support cancer research.
The coordinator of the Gilda Radner Club was in the audience at Stardays, and after watching Eileen's inspiring performance, she invited Johnson to perform at the Radner event to be held later this year.
For the summer, Eileen continued to sing her story to thousands at local fairs. She performed at the King County Fair Rodeo on June 23 and 24. The rodeo announcer told Eileen's story of strength, survival, and singing to the crowd, while Eileen stood beside him in her cowgirl outfit. Soon afterward, she made a lasting impression with her robust voice.
Eileen, however, is not fond of being referred to as "a cancer survivor." She is usually quiet about her struggle and does not openly share it with people unless they ask, but she does feel it's important that she continue her crusade against the wrath of cancer.
"I have to go out and do something about it," she says, determined.
I asked Eileen if she will share her story with her patients when she pursues her career as a nurse. Her experience will surely inspire them, but she will also encourage them to survive, to have a good attitude about it, and to look at the bright side. She contends that all survival is in the mind.
Eileen Johnson is the embodiment of her wise words. People often tell her that she shouldn't smile while she sings "The Story Lives On," because it has a sorrowful tone. But Eileen responds, "How can I not smile? I'm singing."