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Thursday, January 29, 2009
Eagles' Johnson fighting skin cancer

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has had a recurrence of cancer, this time in his spine, team officials said Thursday.

Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder told The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News that Johnson on Monday was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer that has formed a tumor in his back. Johnson has begun radiation treatments at Bryn Mawr Hospital, the trainer said.
Jim Johnson
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson (middle) has no intention to stop coaching and will remain in the position he's been in for the past 10 years.
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The tumor is in the same area where Johnson's skin cancer was diagnosed in 2001, Burkholder told the newspapers. Johnson also has cancer in other areas of his body, Burkholder said, but he declined to elaborate. The team did not offer a prognosis.

"Who knows where it tracked to from there, but his symptoms came from the spine," Burkholder told The Inquirer. "Now there are some other areas in his body [that have cancer], but I'm not going to get into where else some other stuff is. They will all be treated together. "

No surgery is scheduled and Johnson, who has been defensive coordinator for 10 years under coach Andy Reid, intends to continue coaching, Burkholder told the newspapers.

"They're going to go with radiation right now," the trainer was quoted as saying. "One of the problems is he's in a lot of pain from the tumor on his spine and the radiation will calm some of that pain down and let him get back to a little bit more normal walking and stuff like that and then they'll broach what the next treatment is."

Burkholder said doctors don't think the cancer has spread to Johnson's brain or spinal fluid.

The Eagles said the 67-year-old coach complained of back pain in early January. He coached from the press box in a playoff win over the New York Giants and the Eagles' loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC championship. An MRI after the playoff win against the Giants on Jan. 11 alerted doctors that something might be wrong.

"The MRI looked funny," Burkholder told the papers. "We thought he was going to have a disc problem, because he had those symptoms, but it actually looked like there was a tumor besides the stress fracture in his spine.

"The MRI alerted our doctors that something else might be going on. They did further testing. They did a bunch of scans and had him see some other doctors and it looked like the melanoma was back."

Burkholder told the newspapers that doctors are very optimistic.

"Jim's very upbeat about it and Vicky, his wife, is upbeat about it," he said. "Nobody has given me a number -- you've got this much time -- or anything like that. It has all been positive in terms of treating this cancer."