Joey Nichols, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

For Joey Nichols, cancer has shaped not only his past, but also his future. Diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in 1988 at the age of 3, Joey has no clear memories as a patient at MD Anderson, remembering only the best--and the worst--of times. However, it was to be the defining moment of his life. "When I look back on my childhood, a great deal of it revolved around cancer," he says. "It's only logical that I take that experience full circle and become a pediatric oncologist."

Joey has known what his life's work would be since the third grade, when he heard about the South Texas High School for Health Professions in his hometown of Harlingen.

"It all clicked for me then, and there was no turning back," he says. "To not be a pediatric oncologist would be ignoring a big part of who I am." His experience with other young cancer patients at Camp Star Trails every summer also helped him realize what he wanted to do with his life.

His determination doesn't surprise his parents. "From the very beginning, Joey had a positive attitude about his cancer that was beyond his years," says father Paul. "It's never been a crutch for him."

Someday, Joey wants to work at MD Anderson, giving back to the institution that has become an extended family. "I always feel like I'm coming home when I return to MD Anderson."

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