NFL player and Texas boy join forces and co-authors cancer book to raise awareness

NEEDVILLE, Texas (KTRK) -- A fourth grader and a former NFL player have teamed up to help raise awareness of childhood cancer.

In a new book called SuperVan Tackles Cancer, the duo share the story of Van Johnson, who was diagnosed with stage three Rhabdomyosarcoma at just six years old.

"It's something that you don't want to hear," said Van's father, Eric Johnson.

The diagnosis for Van's family came with shock and confusion.

"His only symptom was a stuffy nose. That's all he had was a stuffy nose," said his mother, Stacie Johnson.

Just as Van was getting his diagnosis, their family friend Dominic Austin was recovering from cancer.

"I was diagnosed with stage three Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma," said Austin.

The former cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts was diagnosed back in 2014. "I had a tumor on my shoulder which was the size of a marble," Austin said.

This family friend stepped in with moral support as Van's parents tried to navigate their toughest conversations.

"How do you explain cancer to a child?" said Stacie.

After 42 rounds of chemotherapy, Van told ABC13 it all became routine.

"After a while, you get used to getting poked every single day," he said.

Van's nickname "SuperVan" caught on and Austin was inspired to help him share his story.

"His spirit was just so strong-willed that I was in awe, man I was like 'I wish I could have been as brave and courageous as this young man.'"

The children's chapter book is filled with illustrations and acts as a guide to help other families in the worst scenarios.

"It shows how it feels and what it's like," said Van.

Together, these two unlikely teammates are working to create awareness of childhood cancer, in hopes of more funding and research.

All the proceeds from the book will go to Dominic Austin's charity, Tackles4Cancer.

The 501(c)(3) funds' transportation for cancer patients, which Austin started after he was left walking to his first chemo treatment when his car was towed during a previous doctor's appointment.

The book is available online through and Amazon Kindle.

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