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Donor Pays For MA Marine's Medical Flight To Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- A donor has come forward to help bring a marine battling cancer to Boston for treatment.  Thirty-year-old Jessica Shepherd, a marine sergeant who served from 2003 to 2008 including two tours of duty in Iraq, has a rare and aggressive form of esophageal cancer.

Tumors have fractured her spine and she needs a private flight to Boston for treatment because she is not able to withstand the vibrations of a helicopter or regular commercial flight.

Laurel Johnson of Harwich saw her plight on WBZ-TV and was moved to help.

"I think we can easily all say that's really sad and go about our business.  I didn't want to do that," said Johnson.

WBZ-TV's Beth Germano reports.

Johnson, whose husband Robert died of a brain tumor the day after Christmas last year, decided to help.

"If he'd been alive he would have said we've got to send money to this family.  It's the kind of thing firefighters do," she said.  Johnson was a captain with the Harwich fire department for 30 years.

His battle with cancer is now the inspiration for Laurel's donation of $13,000 to pay for an Air Compassion America flight for Shepherd, the mother of a four-month-old son.

"When he passed away the money was there.  It just seemed right to go to another family fighting cancer," she said.

The money comes from a benevolent fund the firefighting community raised for her husband.  She hopes it will be a living memorial.

In fact, individual donations are now pouring in as well to help the marine who ferried fellow soldiers in and out of danger herself.  All gratifying to Laurel Johnson who knows the fight.

"It's a lot of strain dealing with illness.  You don't need to be thinking about financial problems," she said.

Shepherd currently lives in Jacksonville, North Carolina with her husband Marine Staff Sgt. Brandon Shepherd. A Massachusetts native, she graduated from Lexington High School and Northeastern University.

Arrangements are now being finalized for the transport to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

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