BONAIRE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Many people know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, but not as many people know September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. One Middle Georgia family hopes to spread more awareness about this disease after they recently lost their son who died from leukemia.
"Two years, nine months, eight days," Sarah Thornton said.
That is how long Danny and Sarah Thornton's 11-year-old son Joshua battled leukemia. He passed away on September 1, 2013, after relapsing last month. Hanging in their home above the fire place are Joshua's "Beads of Courage" which symbolize his time in and out of hospitals.
"This is Joshua's transplant bead," Sarah Thornton says as she shows a large, ornate bead. "These are six. He had to have radiation before transplant, twice a day, three times a day, fully body radiation."
"Every white bead the he got was for time he had chemotherapy, every yellow bead for the time he had to spend in the hospital, every red bead for every transfusion he had to get," Danny Thornton said.
In total, Joshua had almost 3,000 beads. The Thornton family say Joshua's journey is a similar story every child battling cancer faces.
"No parent should have to hear those words, 'I'm sorry your child has cancer.' Or stand over your child's bed and watch them take their last breath," Sarah Thornton said. "It shouldn't be like that. Parents should not be burying their children."
Through their loss, the Thornton family hopes to raise awareness for what they say is an all too common disease.
"We're not getting the word out. People are just unaware that this happens until the kid down the street is diagnosed with it," Sarah Thornton said.
They are calling on the community to get involved—ask questions, push for research, and help save kids lives.
"When these children want to fight, let's give them the resources to fight," Danny Thornton said. "One more little one that breathes his last breath because of childhood cancer is too many."
While in the hospital, Joshua liked to play with Legos. His parents say it was his way to escape the world of pain and sickness. His family is collecting Legos to donate to the children's hospital in Atlanta where he was treated. For information on you can donate to their cause, you can 'Like' their Team Thornton Facebook page.
Also for more information on childhood cancer, you can visit Jay's HOPE website.