Alberto Diaz Jr. keeps standing up.
The 11-year-old Atwater boy was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. Despite all the chemotherapy, all the radiation, and all the pain, Alberto has amazed his caregivers and his family with his ability to bounce back.
Now Alberto is running out of time. On Tuesday afternoon, he was in Mercy Medical Center, after suffering seizures and an infection in his eye. His doctors at City of Hope near Los Angeles have told his family there's nothing more to be done for the little boy, other than keeping him comfortable and relieving his pain.
But Alberto has something to look forward to, something to strive for, something to get out of the hospital for. He has been named the honorary chairman for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life on Saturday in Atwater.
Ted Torres, chairman for this year's event, had heard about Alberto, but didn't know a lot about the kid who loves baseball.
"I knew he was a cancer survivor, but I didn't know the treatment and the relapses and the type of cancer he had," Torres said.
When Torres found out more about Alberto, the choice for honorary chair was easy.
"I learned there wasn't a lot more the doctors could do for Alberto," Torres said. "We decided this would be good for the family, and good for Alberto."
Alberto's mom, Athena, said she's hoping her son will be out of the hospital by Saturday.
"My son is still here when others said he wouldn't be," Athena said. "I have hope."
Alberto was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in September 2004, just after he turned 5. He had lost weight, was fatigued and pale. Numerous visits to doctors brought no answers to Alberto's family, so after three-and-a-half months of watching her son suffer, the family took him to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera.
"He was a little skeleton when we got there," Athena said. "But he had never complained."
The cancer was found on the right side of his body, and it had eaten through four of his ribs. He had a tumor the size of a football in his little body.
"The doctors kept asking him if he hurt and he just kept saying no," Athena said. "I would have been on my knees screaming in pain."
Doctors in Madera put little Alberto on chemotherapy, and he started to get his health back. He was in remission for 10 months, then he had more tests done.
"They found he had a golf ball-sized tumor near his liver," Athena said. "That was in September of 2006, and he had to go back to surgery."
Alberto went through another round of chemo, and in March of 2007 his doctors decided to do a stem cell transplant.
"With this type of cancer, if there's a relapse, there's no cure," Athena said. "What he went through brought him to ground zero -- all the bad and good were taken out of his body."
Again Alberto rebounded, and his family thought their oldest child had beaten the disease.
In January of 2009, Alberto relapsed again.
"The doctors wanted to keep fighting, and we totally agreed," Athena said. "We just wanted our son to be able to be a little boy again, to play baseball again."
Despite all the surgeries, and doctors who spent hours in surgery to help Alberto, the little boy's family has been told the end is now near. Alberto started having seizures, and doctors found the cancer had spread to his brain.
Now it's just a matter of keeping Alberto comfortable. His parents have talked to Alberto, and to his five siblings, and explained what is coming.
"I told Alberto if someone comes to take him, to go with them, don't stay here," Athena said. "I'm his mom, but I can't take him myself."
Athena said she believes her son has given her the strength to get through the past six years, and to be a mom to not only a sick little boy, but to his shell-shocked sisters and brothers as well.
"I've told him he's a beautiful gift I got to share with everyone," Athena said. "I told him to fight as long as you can, but then it's up to you and God. It's going to be OK not to fight anymore."
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.