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Javier Ayala, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Javier Ayala was a street kid—hanging out, stealing, drinking and getting into fights. That was before cancer rocked his world. Javier was 15 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 1990. "I was weak, pale and had swollen glands in my throat," he says. "My mom immediately knew something was wrong and took me to the clinic."

The diagnosis was terrifying, but it would ultimately get Javier off the streets and into church. His newfound faith was quickly put to the test, however. "I was counting the days left in my 72-week chemotherapy treatment when I relapsed," he says. "It was frustrating to start over again." Given the choice between an experimental drug and a bone marrow transplant, Javier chose the transplant. "My middle sister donated her marrow and saved my life," he says.

Javier has shared his experience with other young cancer patients. "When I was at MD Anderson, a friend who worked there would come get me out of bed," he says. "I do the same thing for the kids I visit, because the more you lie around, the more you think about cancer. Being active makes you want to fight for your life."

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