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Denzel Persad, Pediatric Leukemia

Practically from the time he was born, Denzel Persad’s parents knew their child was different, with a self-confidence that seemed to come naturally. “He’s quite a challenge and is always one step ahead,” says his mom, Ava. “I have to be on my toes with him!”

Denzel’s confidence—and that of his parents—was sorely tested in 1995, when he was diagnosed with leukemia at 17 months of age. What started out as a round of ear infections progressed to fevers and internal bleeding. Denzel was finally admitted to a Houston hospital, and “the doctors said he had to go to MD Anderson immediately,” Ava says. “He was taken there by ambulance. One more day, and he would have died.”

At MD Anderson, Denzel underwent three years of chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial, but just 10 days before the end of treatment, he relapsed and had to go through it all again. Though the situation was difficult, Denzel showed the strength of a much older person. “From day one, he never complained, “ Ava says. “He was not scared for himself, and never went crazy like the other kids.”

During his treatment and summers spent at MD Anderson’s Camp Star Trails with other young cancer patients, Denzel left a lasting impression on just about everyone he met. “The camp counselors got very attached to him, and wanted to shake my hand because they enjoyed him so much,” laughs Ava. Today, Denzel is into everything: he loves to cook, read and fix things, and had a role in the school musical. But please, don’t call him “Denzel Washington.” He got his name from a relative in Trinidad, not the famous actor. Denzel says he’s much better looking, anyway.

Ava credits the upbeat attitude of MD Anderson employees for helping her and Denzel get through the difficult moments. “Even though they’re very busy, every patient is special to the nurses and doctors,” she says. “They’re really dedicated to the kids. That’s just MD Anderson.”

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