Criss Angel’s Fight to Save His 2-Year-Old Son: ‘I’d Rather It Be Me'
The 47-year-old illusionist's fight to save his 2-year-old son from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Criss Angel, the world famous magician, was unfortunately in Las Vegas when he received the dreaded phone call that his son, Johnny, had been diagnosed with cancer.
"I felt helpless," the Mindfreak Live! magician says in the current issue of PEOPLE of the moment he found out his son had acute lymphoblastic leukemia last October.
To make matter worse, Angel and his wife Shaunyl Benson had recently separated and his son was 8,300 miles away in Australia. Angel immediately dropped everything to fly halfway across the globe to be with at his sick son's bedside.
"I'm locked into a 10-year contract and had never missed one show," says Angel, 48, who is committed to performing 10 times a week at the Luxor Las Vegas. "But I needed to be with my son."
Due to his strict contract with Mindfreak Live! on the Strip and also because he was taping an A&E special (due to air in October), Angel was only able to visit his son once over the course of 10 months.
Still, Angel was supportive long-distance and he is committed to co-parenting (with Benson) to ensure the love and support of their son.
"Honestly, we are really good friends. Whenever I need anything, I know that Criss is there," Benson tells PEOPLE.
"At the end of the day, it makes Johnny happy to see his parents interacting happily and … it makes me happy seeing my son happy."
Angel and Benson both said it was incredibly difficult watching their son experience the side effects of cancer treatments, which included hair loss and behavioral changes.
"Johnny is a happy, fun, loving boy, but the steroid treatments have a profound effect on his mood," Angel explains. He began throwing "violent" tantrums. "That's hard to see, but that's not our Johnny. That's the steroids."
Thankfully, Johnny is now in remission but will continue treatment for another two years. His immune system is on the rebound, and in August he visited the U.S. for the first time since his diagnosis!
Even though Angel is incredibly busy, he has a newfound purpose, creating the Johnny Crisstopher Children's Charitable Foundation to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and search for a cure.
"My son is supposed to outlive me. I'd rather it be me that was sick," he says. "I want Johnny's future to be long and happy. That kid is just a bundle of love. He's the truest form of magic."
See Angel's philanthropic video that's going viral below…
Viewers everywhere are impressed with his ability to take a personal hardship and turn around to make the world a better place for children with cancer.
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