BOSTON (CBS) — A donor has come forward to help bring a marine battling cancer to Boston for treatment.  Thirty-year-old Jessica Shepherd, a marine sergeant who served from 2003 to 2008 including two tours of duty in Iraq, has a rare and aggressive form of esophageal cancer.

Tumors have fractured her spine and she needs a private flight to Boston for treatment because she is not able to withstand the vibrations of a helicopter or regular commercial flight.

Laurel Johnson of Harwich saw her plight on WBZ-TV and was moved to help.

“I think we can easily all say that’s really sad and go about our business.  I didn’t want to do that,” said Johnson.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports.

Johnson, whose husband Robert died of a brain tumor the day after Christmas last year, decided to help.

“If he’d been alive he would have said we’ve got to send money to this family.  It’s the kind of thing firefighters do,” she said.  Johnson was a captain with the Harwich fire department for 30 years.

His battle with cancer is now the inspiration for Laurel’s donation of $13,000 to pay for an Air Compassion America flight for Shepherd, the mother of a four-month-old son.

“When he passed away the money was there.  It just seemed right to go to another family fighting cancer,” she said.

The money comes from a benevolent fund the firefighting community raised for her husband.  She hopes it will be a living memorial.

In fact, individual donations are now pouring in as well to help the marine who ferried fellow soldiers in and out of danger herself.  All gratifying to Laurel Johnson who knows the fight.

“It’s a lot of strain dealing with illness.  You don’t need to be thinking about financial problems,” she said.

Shepherd currently lives in Jacksonville, North Carolina with her husband Marine Staff Sgt. Brandon Shepherd. A Massachusetts native, she graduated from Lexington High School and Northeastern University.

Arrangements are now being finalized for the transport to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Comments (14)
  1. kmh2301 says:

    A terrific story, especially during the holiday season, I wish this poor woman the best as she fights this battle.

  2. metoo says:

    What an awesome story! God bless this donor. There truely are compassionate peple in this world. Best wishes for a successful operation for Jesica!

  3. Raymond Santos says:

    “We want to thank Laurel Johnson, who is feeling the loss of her husband this holiday season, and the hundreds of others, who have made contributions, small and large, to help Jessica. Your generous gifts are ensuring Jessica receives the care she needs and deserves. If you haven’t contributed to the Jessica Shepherd Fund already, please consider giving to help a former Marine Sergeant in her fight against cancer.”

    Jessica Shepherd Fund

  4. me says:

    It is great what Ms Johnson is doing for Jessica.

    However, WBZ had been botching this story all morning…both my husband and i thought Jessica was still active duty in Iraq and the military would not bring her home. Not until the 6:30 section did you make it clear.

  5. Sue says:

    wonderful gesture from a woman, who I am certain, is still reeling from her own loss.

  6. Jennifer Johnson-Lauer says:

    Laurel Johnson is my cousin and Godmother and I am so very proud of her. She is hurting so much from the loss of Bobby and she felt she needed to help this family financially and I just am in tears from her generosity and out pour of love and support for this family. Laurel, sometimes by healing someone elses wound, you heal your own. I love you Laurel. God Bless you. Your cousin and Goddaughter Jennifer Johnson-Lauer

  7. Jeremy Johnson says:

    Laurel is my aunt, she is one of the most amazing people on the face of this earth. The loss of my uncle, has been extremely hard for our whole family, but as many people already know, she has turned our loss into something most people can only wish to. The memory of my uncle and the great things he did are being matched by my aunts unstoppable passion for what they both believed in. I can only hope that the familys that she has helped and will continue to help have the strength and love that she has in her heart. I hope the best for Jessica and her family. Hopefully more people will donate to such a worthy cause. I love you aunt laurel

  8. Stefanie says:

    Thank you Mrs. Johnson for giving my cousin a fighting chance! You have proven that there really are angels walking among us. Thank you!

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