John Knighten, the Spokane firefighter who battled multiple myeloma for several years, passed away Sunday from the disease..
Knighten was diagnosed with the rare, terminal cancer that affects blood plasma in 2010. For three years he fought the devastating disease. His fellow firefighters and the community rallied to help pay for his treatments and he was even able to return to work at one point, but the battle with cancer and a brain tumor eventually wore him down..
In April, Knighten suffered a devastating setback and doctors told him he weeks to live and to go home and be with his family. Doctors told him to go home.
He returned home riding his old Station 4 engine.
"Watching him climb in there for the last time and being brought home, it was a huge honor to him," Shawna Knighten said at the time in April.
During his final interview with KXLY after he returned home, he talked about disease, his family and while the treatments didn't cure him they did give him three more years with his family.
"It really helped us a lot. I may not have been cured, but I got an extra three years ... we knew it was a Hail Mary going into it, and I never was the best football player," he laughed.
"I thank God every day that it's me not one of my kids or my wife. I can take anything," Knighten added.
Knighten's last public appearance was at the beginning of June, when the fire department awarded him the Purple Heart; his multiple myeloma which was attributed to his work over the years as a firefighter. Over the last weekend, his condition steadily worsened and Hospice came in to help with the last few days of his car.
On Sunday, his wife Shawna posted to Facebook, "John is now gasping to breath which is an awful sound to hear. I was however able to wake him up long enough today to tell him how much I loved him and it was ok to stop fighting."
Then, late Sunday night, came the final message that Knighten had finally given up his three year long fight.
"Dearest family & friends,
it is with a broken heart that I tell you John passed away at 9:05 tonight. He was surrounded with all of us by his side as he took his last breath. He fought bravely right to the very end. His ladder crew just happened to be on shift today so Ladder 4 came and placed a flag over John's body and they personally carried him out of our home. I will post funeral information as we make our final arrangements. I can not thank you enough for all of the love and caring support each of you have shown us every step of the way through our difficult journey."
Sunday night after he passed away, the Ladder Four crew, assisted by personnel from Station 13, drove to Knighten's home to prepare him for one final ride. Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer, who called Knighten an informal leader of both Station Four and the Spokane Fire Department, said the fire company draped his body with an American flag, carried him from his home and saluted their comrade one final time.
Then, with a Washington State Patrol escort, Knighten was taken by fire engine to the funeral home. Knighten, the firefighter and former Marine, had given his all.
"He wanted to continue giving. He wanted to donate his organs. He wanted to try experimental medications and do everything he could to help out anybody else suffering from the same disease. That's just the kind of person he was," Schaeffer said.
While it look on the outside that its business as usual at the Spokane Fire Department, inside the losses of Knighten, and 19 men on a hotshot crew in Arizona, are weighing heavy on their hearts.
"Simultaneously we have the 18 or 19 firefighters that were lost in Arizona too that happened yesterday. So it's been overall a pretty tragic last 24 hours for everybody in our discipline or in our industry," said Schaeffer.
Because Knighten's death was considered a death in the line of duty and because he was a Marine veteran he will be given a burial with full military honors.
John Knighten was 45.