Johnah's journey with cancer

By Anna Yee

April 3, 2013 Updated Apr 4, 2013 at 1:11 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- It's been almost a year of waiting and watching for this Peoria-area mother.

Kelly Belinger-Sahr's 4-year-old son Johnah was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma and was sent to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis for treatment.

"Everything stopped," said Johnah's mom. "Everything felt very, very, very surreal.... because no one wants to hear that word."

Johnah's cancer is aggressive and calls for a long road to recovery, but thanks to your donations, his family doesn't have to worry about the extra burden of bills.

St. Jude pays for every patient's treatment, and then some.

"We have family meals, which are incredible," said Belinger-Sahr. "They helped us with Christmas, because we couldn't go home. They really made it a place he could not just survive, but thrive."

And no donation is too small. When St. Jude founder Danny Thomas was fundraising, a young boy gave up his last 75 cents.

Thomas was so moved by that gesture, that he actually incorporated the change in this wall of the hospital.

But Johnah's journey extends beyond the walls of St. Jude in Memphis to Peoria.

He's back home to continue therapy at the St. Jude Midwest affiliate at Children's Hospital of Illinois.

"For him, being able to be at home is huge," said Belinger-Sahr. "It just really makes him feel like it's as normal as can be."

The affiliate sees hundreds of patients a year from across Illinois and the Midwest, but the care is still very personal.

"In our clinic, we greet each kid by name, every time," said Shelley Lee, child life specialist at the St. Jude Midwest Affiliate. "When they walk in the door, we're like, 'Johnah!' You know, we're so excited to see them, and we really try to make it welcoming."

If all goes as planned, Johnah should be finishing his active treatments by August, but he says his sights are set on a bigger picture...

"A cure for cancer."

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Tickets are still available for Peoria's St. Jude Dream Home giveaway.

The four bedroom house is located at 3011 West Wessex Drive and is open for tours during the weekend.

You can purchase $100 raffle tickets at any Peoria or Tazewell county Kroger store, or online at www.StJude.org/DHPeoria (or click on the link above).

You can also call 1-800-390-3196.

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