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Yuba City 11-year-old boy stands up to cancer
When Angel Castillo was battling leukemia, nurse Lynn Merz would make the shy 11-year-old Yuba City kid laugh by singing the theme song from his favorite TV show, "SpongeBob SquarePants."
"She's my favorite, because she likes SpongeBob," Angel explained on Saturday at a pizza party in Yuba City in his honor.
Merz, a Sutter Memorial Hospital nurse, said making Angel smile was a fun challenge.
"He's got a great smile," Merz said.
He's smiling a lot more these days since finishing his chemotherapy treatments.
It's been a long road for Angel and his family.
His mother, Carmen Zamora, choked up when describing her emotions when the doctors told her in November, "It's going to be OK."
"It was just something that I wasn't ..." her voice trailing off, tears in her eyes.
Angel's been through a lot in recent years, many days unable to get out of bed.
Last year, family members gave him a package of colored pencils to give him something to do to pass the time. Angel quickly discovered he loved drawing.
He compiled a short book of colored-pencil sketches of friends, family members, doctors and nurses he's known over the last few years. Flipping through his book on Saturday night, Angel lit up recalling stories and memories about each person he met while fighting cancer.
"This is Nurse Patty, she's holding a fan because she's always hot," he explained. "This is me asking my mom, 'why,' because I always ask her 'why' when she tells me to do things."
There are drawings of his brother and father wearing Raiders football shirts.
"This is Dr. Hsu, this is me wishing for Legos," he said quickly turning pages. "This is a kid, Alex, he had cancer, too. He passed away."
Donna and Alfonso Navarez gave Angel the pencils.
"I'm just so proud of him," Donna Navarez said. "I just can't even imagine what it was like for him to go through something like that."
Zamora said Angel's leukemia has been in remission for about two years and doctors told her Angel wouldn't be considered "cancer free" until the five-year mark, but she's feeling confident for the first time in a long time.
"He still has to get his blood checked, but the treatment is over," Zamora said.
Angel's hair has grown back, it's thick and curly now. He's back in school and having fun.
His older sister, Haylee Cummins, said the family is relieved.
"It's a lot of stress lifted," Cummins said. "It's something that's so hard to go through for a kid, it's just an awesome feeling now."
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.