Full circle: Young cancer patient inspired by firefighters becomes one years later

CONCORD, N.C. — Two Concord firefighters with a passion for helping others experienced a full circle moment recently.

In 2010, members of the Concord Fire Department took a trip to Levine Children’s Hospital. It was the first year on the job for firefighter Charles Parker who decided to tag along.

That day, Parker and his coworkers visited 10-year-old cancer patient Josh Knisley.

“He was happy. He seemed cheerful even with his illness as serious as it was … and he seemed to enjoy our company,” Parker remembered.

A couple of months ago, Parker came across a photo from the visit, and he wondered what happened to the boy.

Miraculously, Knisley fully recovered.

Knisley’s memories of his illness and the 3 1/2 years he endured of treatment are now neatly pasted on the pages of a scrapbook he keeps. Most of the photos show the toll leukemia had on his young body. But there are other photos in the book that captured happier moments – photos of Knisley with members of the Concord Fire Department.

“One of my nurses who took care of me for one of her shifts, her father worked for CFD. And this was a particularly tough time in the hospital, so she told him, ‘Hey, you gotta come see this kid,’” he said.

Knisley said the visits didn’t stop. He has pages of photos from visits he had with firefighters from Concord and Charlotte – photos from his recovery party, photos of him sitting inside a fire truck, and photos of a fire helmet that was given to him on the day he was discharged from the hospital.

“To just be wowed by all the cool stuff and cool people, that was the most memorable, and the thing I liked about them the most,” he said.

The “cool stuff and cool people” made such an impression on Knisley that now he’s a fulltime firefighter with the City of Concord.

Knisley is now 21 years old and serving his first year with Concord Fire.

He just recently started to share his cancer story and photos with some of his fellow firefighters.

It didn’t take long before Knisley and Parker were sharing their stories and photos with some of the same firefighters, and that’s when the connection was made.

“I think it’s an amazing story that he was able to overcome the illness and follow his dream to become a career firefighter,” Parker said.

“It’s a very cool full circle moment ... to be the same age as some of those guys who visited me and to be in the same spot. It’s very humbling,” Knisley said.

“I’m here. I’m alive. Kind of everything else is icing on the cake,” he added.