Fighting breast cancer is something close to Lady Jane’s CEO Chad Johnson’s heart.
Johnson lost his mother to breast cancer seven years ago, which has driven him to give back to those who have fought – or are fighting – cancer.
As part of that drive, Johnson invited Reneé Maat and her family — husband, Joel, and kids Scott, Magdalen, Jocelyn and Kaden — to the Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints game at Ford Field on October 19.
“I enjoyed the game, the atmosphere, the people,” said Reneé, “but what gave me the most enjoyment was watching my children and the joy that they had being there. I cannot say thank you enough to Chad for choosing us!”
Johnson initially had his two front row tickets to give away to a survivor, but purchased four additional tickets for the kids when he heard that a family outing was long overdue.
“We had not been able to do much as a family because of Reneé’s health and were not only surprised, but humbled and appreciative,” said Joel.
The family drove from the Grand Rapids area to Ford Field early Sunday morning where Lady Jane’s treated them to brunch in the Hall of Legends. From there, they were invited to the Lady Jane’s suite to meet Johnson.
Johnson explained his backstory to Reneé and her family and how that led to him wanting to pamper those who have fought through breast cancer.
“My mom isn’t here anymore to enjoy any of this,” he said, pointing to the football field. “She doesn’t get to see my kids, enjoy a Sunday out – anything. So it’s nice to give to other families who have experienced the difficulties of cancer.”
Reneé's Journey Through Cancer
Reneé’s journey with breast cancer began in January of 2013 when she received her diagnosis. She had been in for her yearly mammogram. After being told the news, her mind immediately went to her children.
“I had lost my father five years prior to a brain tumor and it devastated my oldest son,” she said, “so I was scared how he would respond to the news. I prayed a lot.”
Prior to surgery that included a lumpectomy and the removal of lymph nodes, Reneé went through chemotherapy from April through June of 2013.
It was during that time that her husband, Joel, says his wife was beyond inspiring.
“My wife fought this like the most prize fighter in the world,” he said. “Not did she undergo eight of the most dangerous chemo treatments, she went through treatments while continuing to work full time to help support our family. To add to this, she developed blood clots which required additional surgeries and complications to go with them.
“Despite all of that, she remained positive and proud of the bald head she was displaying with confidence. In spite of all the treatments, their side affects and the complications from numerous survives, she maintained the most positive upbeat attitude that even the healthiest of people would envy.”
Following her chemo treatments, Reneé underwent surgery in mid-June. It was after that surgery that the doctors gave her fantastic news.
“They told me they got all of the cancer and I cried,” she said. “I still had 33 rounds of radiation to come and more surgery, but knowing they had removed all of the cancer and I was ‘clean’ was the answer to many prayers. Our family went out and celebrated!”
As she dealt with the 33 rounds of radiation she had to go through following her surgery, Reneé and Joel wanted to do something to help others who were battling, or had battled, cancer. Along with “Pink Heals”, a national organization, they helped to raise $28,000, which they donated to their local cancer retreat center called Bluebirds.
Bluebird Cancer Retreat hosts a few weekends a year for the cancer patient and their caregiver to get away and be pampered.
“We then broke off from the national organization and started our own nonprofit called ‘Shields of Hope’,” said Reneé. “We are not only raising money for Bluebird, but also to deliver gift baskets to cancer patients as well as provide services that they may need, like getting their lawn mowed or washing their windows.”
So it was ultimately fitting that Johnson would host Reneé and her family – people who also love to give back – for a Detroit Lions game that ended in exciting, come-from-behind fashion.
“It was amazing!” said Reneé. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for our family and we will cherish it forever!”