Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Jeff’s Story

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By Jeff Thornton, Guest Blogger

When I was just 3 years old, I was playing in my room when my mom noticed a strange growth on the top of my tongue. At first my parents thought it was just an infection.  But after weeks went by and there was no change in looks, they started to get worried, and with my dad being a doctor, not even he knew what it was. I was taken to several different doctors when I was finally diagnosed with Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma, a rare (even for sarcomas) malignant tumor found in the soft tissue of the body. Cancer? How can that be?  I was only 3.

This picture was taken the same month I was diagnosed with sarcoma. I was just 3 years old.

I recall stories my parents told me about when they found out. They, as any parents would be, were terrified.  And although it was just a little thing on my tongue, if not for my mom finding it so quickly, it could have spread throughout my body. I do not remember much about that period, just sitting on the hospital bed eating Trix ice pops while clutching a teddy bear the hospital gave me. After two surgeries, I lost a piece of my tongue, but fortunately, I maintain complete function and I can proudly say I am a cancer survivor!

This experience motivated my parents to start the Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA) in my honor. When I was first diagnosed, they looked around for an organization that they could join to help find the cure for this never-heard-of-before cancer.  They found none.  Nothing they were looking for anyway that focused on research.  For this reason, they decided they could just start something themselves.  They teamed up with Dr. John Brooks, and two years after my diagnosis, the SFA was born.  Over the last 12 years, the SFA has raised over five million dollars for cancer research!

My battle with sarcoma inspired my parents, along with Dr. John Brooks, to establish the Sarcoma Foundation of America. From left: John Brooks, MD, Patricia Thornton, Mark Thornton, MD, MPH, PhD.

Though sarcoma has definitely been a part of my life, I’m glad I don’t dwell on it and let it control me.  I guess it’s a good thing I don’t remember a lot of the tough things I had to go through to kill the cancer.  Maybe it would be different if I did.  Instead, I can focus on what pretty much every teenager my age is focusing on, getting my license, graduating high school, and getting accepted into a college, and when I can, volunteering at the SFA!

Jeff is now 17 years old and is in his senior year of high school.  He is a 14-year survivor of sarcoma.

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