Cancer Survivor and Long-Time Chiefs Fan Relishes First Fantasy Camp

Chiefs Fantasy Camp benefits The University of Kansas Hospital’s Center for Concussion Management

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The day, the score and the weather conditions don't matter. Kansas City Chiefs fan Ken Johnson, a season ticket member of 26 seasons, will not leave a game at Arrowhead Stadium early.

"Ken's hardcore," his friend and tailgate partner, John Sutherland, says of him. "He will not leave the game. I use to ride with him. Now I bring my own car. I had to get a parking pass because Ken won't leave no matter what. He's the Chiefs number one fan."

This past Thursday and Friday, John and Ken participated in the third annual Kansas City Chiefs Fantasy Camp, which benefits The University of Kansas Hospital's Center for Concussion Management.

First, John was invited to come to the camp by his investment company that had an available ticket. Then, a couple days later, the company called him again, asking him if he had anyone in mind that he wanted to bring.

"Ken was my first thought," John said.

The past eight months had been rather tumultuous for Ken, whose life changed last October when he felt a severe pain in his stomach.

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The Kansas City Chiefs and the University of Kansas Hospital hosted the third annual fantasy camp.

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"I thought I had appendicitis, and I went to the hospital and they figure out pretty quickly it wasn't the appendix," he said. "I had a five-pound mass in my large intestine and it burst my intestine."

At the hospital, doctors removed the tumor from his large intestine and sent it off for testing. On October 15, they discovered it was Burkitt's lymphoma, a form of cancer.

"Once they found out what it was, I began chemo," Ken described. "It was eight sessions of chemo. There were four days each session over 24 weeks, so about six months."

John recalled the moment when he found out about Ken's diagnosis.

"I remember when I found out about it, I think it was my wife who told me, and you get that pit in your stomach," he said. "I just remember what I said to her was, 'Cancer can't kill Kenny. That's for sure.'"

With the support of his friend in John, his wife, Chrystal, and his three children, Ken began his cancer treatment at The University of Kansas Hospital.

"People there knew what they were doing," he said. "They knew the proper treatments, the proper drugs to give me for the chemotherapy."

Ken finished up his treatments at the end of March.

"It just wears you out," he said of how he felt even after finishing. "I feel like I was sleeping for the next two weeks. I could barely walk to the end of the block and back at that point. I went out walking every day and would walk a few miles."

Recently, Ken received the good news that the cancer was gone, but with Burkitt's lymphoma, doctors will wait to officially rule him cancer-free until it's absent for a year. Still, Ken is thrilled that so far, the chemotherapy seems to have worked.

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"I think they got it," Ken said. "It was a battle."

On Thursday night, the first night of Fantasy Camp, Ken and John ran into the "Voice of the Chiefs," Mitch Holthus, at the opening ceremonies.

John quickly told Holthus of Ken's story.

"It was a casual conversation," Holthus said. "It kind of stopped me in my tracks and coming to Fantasy Camp was a bit of a reward for him battling through the chemotherapy."

At the Fantasy Camp luncheon on Friday afternoon, Holthus, who was hosting the interview panel, told all in attendance of Ken's successful treatment, and it led to a standing ovation.

"I jumped to my feet," Pro Football Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud and Ken's coach for the weekend said of the moment. "It's really neat. That's why the heat shouldn't bother us that much when you think of people like him."

Ken is one of the many stories that intertwine the Kansas City Chiefs with The University of Kansas Hospital.

In addition to cancer treatments, doctors at the at The University of Kansas Hospital work diligently at the Center for Concussion Management, where they treat mild to severe concussions in adults and young people. The funds raised at Fantasy Camp benefit that work.

"[A concussion] is just one of those situations and one of those conditions that there's more awareness than there ever has been before," Bob Page, the president and CEO of The University of Kansas Hospital, said. "What we're trying to do is we're trying to not only treat people who have concussions, but do the research ahead of that and see how our researchers can work together doing some world class things for people.

"I think the awareness is heightening. I think people are paying more attention. But you know, it's a pretty serious situation and you just don't want to let it go. And I think our team is world class. And that's what will benefit from this."


In addition to a seven-on-seven flag football tournament to crown the "Chiefs Fantasy Camp" champion, the two-day event featured appearances by current Chiefs executives Clark Hunt, Mark Donovan and John Dorsey, head coach Andy Reid, former head coach Dick Vermeil and former players like Will Shields, Shawn Barber, Keith Cash, Anthony Davis, Tim Grunhard, Dante Hall, Eddie Kennison and Chrstian Okoye.

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