British Columbia

Cancer fight ends tragically for 7-year-old boy

Family and friends of a seven-year-old boy are grieving his death. The B.C. boy's family had appealed to find a bone marrow match for leukemia this spring. Joshua Weekes died peacefully Thursday.

Parents, family and students grieve loss of Joshua Weekes

Joshua's mother, Lia Weekes, donated bone marrow to her son, but doctors said his chances would have been better with an external donor who was a closer match in ethnic makeup. (Weekes family)

Joshua Weekes' life was cut early, but family and friends say his kindness, laughter and smarts will be remembered forever.

"He was amazing. He was such a special boy. He was so bright. I think he started reading at age three," Joshua's godmother Tania Silva said proudly. 

Weekes was diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia after a family holiday in the Philippines in February of 2016.

Seven-year-old Weekes started chemotherapy treatment the next day, but needed a bone marrow transplant — including a rare donor with a similar ethnic make up to his Icelandic, British, Philippine and West Indian one. The family had appealed to the public in hopes of finding a match.

Unable to find the unique donor, his mother donated the bone marrow. However, doctors said fighting the disease may have been more successful with an external donor with a more similar racial make up. 

Silva, who is also Weekes's mother's best friend says she met Joshua the day he was born and he was the first child she fell in love with. 

"Most of all he was just so brave," Silva said choking back the tears.   

Joshua Weekes and his best friend, whom he called 'brother, Cristian Silva. The two boys grew up together in Richmond and were just more than a year apart in age. (Tania Silva)

Silva says even while fighting his own battles, Joshua would still take the time to help and encourage others. 

"When my son Cristian was sick with pneumonia this December, Joshua texted me to tell my son not to be scared. After all he had been through, he still was there for his brother," Silva said. 

Students and teachers devastated

Joshua was a Grade 2 student at De Beck Elementary in Richmond. Principal Larry Hurst says students and teachers are still reeling from his death. 

"Josh was someone who touched all of us. He was a sweet boy with an enthusiastic personality, who will be remembered for his kindness and thoughtfulness," Hurst said.

Hurst says there's been a lot of talk among the students who are inspired to be like Joshua and fight through challenges and to be as kind to others, in honor of his memory.

"That was something that came from more than a couple of students, over the last couple of days," he said.

Joshua's Weekes passed away peacefully on Thursday. His friends, family and classmates say he will be remembered for his kindness and his big smile. (Weekes family)

'There is just no understanding this'

Tania Silva says Joshua's Mom, Lia, and Dad, Dagan, are traumatized from battling cancer with their only son for almost a year but also coming to terms with the heartbreaking reality of his death.

"There is no understanding this," Silva said.

"There is just so much sadness and pain, and right now, it's so raw. It's going to be very difficult. There is a hole that will be here forever, and we will always think what could have been."

Silva is encouraging everyone to donate blood to Canadian Blood Services and get on the OneMatch Bone Marrow Donor registry list, in honour of Joshua. 

Joshua's funeral will be held on Thursday January 19 at 2 p.m. PT at Forest Lawn Funeral Home, 3789 Royal Oak Ave., Burnaby.