When asked to describe her mom, Melissa, Gracie Johnson’s answer was simple – a grizzly bear .
“My mom was a grizzly bear of an individual in how she loved us,” Gracie said. “She loved us hard and would go to war for us. She was our biggest supporter and cared so deeply for us. She was so full of life, love and happiness, and that’s what I will carry with me.”
Weeks after Gracie arrived at Duke as an early-enrolled freshman on the volleyball team in January 2019, she was walking to the dining hall and received a family call. Her mom had been diagnosed with a rare type of stage IV breast cancer, a shocking diagnosis leading to a lot of uncertainty and emotions.
“You never think it’s going to be someone that close to you,” Gracie said. “I’d always had a distant relative or a family friend that you hear about maybe having a connection, but I never thought about it being my own family member. But, right away, my mom was on it and wanted to see how she was going to overcome this battle.”