Diane Johnson Rumors
About a year ago, Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Johnson received some amazing news: His mother, Diane, was cancer free. Diane Johnson, a single mother who raised her son in Little Rock, Arkansas, by working the graveyard shift as a nurse at a psychiatric ward, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a rare form of cancer that affects the plasma cells in bone marrow — in 2008. Her cancer had been in remission following several rounds of chemotherapy and a couple stem-cell transplants over the years. “She’s great, man. She’s cancer free,” Joe Johnson said Saturday. “[We found out] about a year ago. So she’s been great. She’s actually been living here with me in New Jersey. It’s great, man. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
With all that was scary about cancer for Diane Johnson, breaking the news to her only child seemed just as terrifying as coming to grips with the fatal disease. So Diane kept it from Joe Johnson for over a year. She waited until she couldn’t wait any longer, until the physical effects of the steroid treatments were too obvious to hide. “I didn’t want him to know because at the time I was diagnosed the season just got started,” Dianne says. “And I knew he was getting ready for that. “I kind of had to come clean and tell him exactly what was going on. I told him I had a blood disorder.”
Diane broke the news at All-Star weekend in Dallas in 2010, when her feet were so swollen that she couldn’t walk because of the steroids. Joe was a member of the Atlanta Hawks, still more than two years from joining the Nets and being celebrated at a pep rally in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall. Diane, 54, had been diagnosed in 2008 with multiple myeloma — a cancer of bone marrow plasma cells — following a routine physical. It’s a rare and typically incurable cancer. “When you hear cancer, you immediately think of death,” Diane says. “But I didn’t. I mean, I thought of death but the thing was, I want to see my son get married, I want to have grandbabies.
Diane says her son was always well-behaved and respectful, although she’ll never forget that he extended Senior Skip Day to two days. Humility is not a surprising description considering Joe’s current role as Brooklyn’s even-keeled, calming force on and off the court. “It’s just been her,” Joe says. “My pops was never around. It was just me and her. So to see her go through cancer. It’s just tough.”
But not too long after his Bronx cameo, Joe flew to meet his pneumonia-stricken mother at an Arkansas hospital. Johnson stayed over a week with his mother, while his teammates were assembled for pre-training camp workouts at the Nets practice facility. “My son really stepped up. He was there. I can tell he was hurting and I couldn’t help him,” says Dianne, fighting back tears. “He was there. He’s been there for me all through this and continues to support me in anything and everything I do. “I think it is (hard on him). But Joe will never tell me. He’ll be strong. He’s always been my backbone, my heart. So he would never tell me, ‘Mom, I can’t handle this.’ Even if it bothered him, he wouldn’t tell me.”
Joe carried a heavy heart to training camp in the fall, begrudgingly leaving his mother at the hospital. He kept his pain to himself. “It was difficult because of the fact that I knew it was tough times for her,” Joe says. “The last thing I wanted was to lose her. Mentally I wasn’t there. Obviously I kind of kept it to myself and didn’t really express it because I knew coming here was a big deal and I wanted to be ready. But I couldn’t really work out like I wanted to. I just didn’t have the focus. She had all my focus, my attention.”
Meanwhile, she’s trying to take multiple myeloma in stride, hoping she’ll get to see her six-time All-Star son get married. “I did research and stuff on multiple myeloma,” she says. “They say I have 1-to-10 years. Well, I’m just going to go on my strength, and my faith, and stay strong.” Joe won’t let himself consider timelines. “I just try not to. I just try to enjoy the times we had together,” he says. “What happens, happens. I’m not in control of it. She’s pretty much not either.”