Volleyball coach battles cancer while daughter steps in as coach

Coach Johnson
Coach Johnson

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Clara Johnson isn't used to watching her volleyball players from the bleachers, but finds comfort in knowing her old job is in good hands.

"I'm kinda living the dream," says Casey Johnson.

When Casey Johnson learned her mom had lung cancer,  "one of the first things my dad said to me after he explained to me everything that was going on was 'we're going to need you at home.' And before he had even said that there was no where else that I would want to be," adds Johnson.

She left her Junior year at the University of Alabama, came home and started coaching her mom's middle school volleyball team.

An avid player herself, it's something she's always wanted to do.

And now she's doing it for her mom, and the volleyball girls who love having a little bit of coach Johnson in Casey.

"She was going to school, so we were really thankful that she came and took online classes just to coach us," says player, Kellie Smeltzer.

Clara's cancer spread from her lung, to her arm and eventually showed up in small spots on her brain.

The news came as a blow to the volleyball team and the Saint James family.  But, it's helping them pull together.

"We just prayed for her all the time and hoped that God would put his hands on her and help her get through this," says player, Paden Browning.

And while Casey fills her mother's shoes on the sidelines, she has no doubt her mom, who is also her best friend, will be back here soon.

"We're going to beat this cancer. Just like any opponent I faced when I was 5 years old playing Tee ball, we're going to beat this cancer. And we're all pretty hopeful about it."

Doctors say because Clara isn't a smoker, her chances of beating the cancer are better.

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