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TEEN LEARNS PEOPLE CARE 230 GET TESTED IN EFFORT TO GIVE HIM BONE MARROW.

Byline: Naush Boghossian Staff Writer

Cutaneous peripheral T-cell lymphoma, subtype gamma delta.

Jeff Mailes and his mom laugh as they rush to list the words in the medical name of the cancer that has compromised the 17-year-old boy's body.

The young man - who excels in his academics, athletics and social life - had too much to lose, as does everyone struck by the disease. But he can - in fact, wants - to laugh because it's that same disease that revealed the love and community in his life.

There is no bone marrow match for Mailes in the national registry of 5.5 million willing donors, so more than 230 friends from church and school showed up last week to be tested for a possible donor.

``It feels really good that so many people care about how I'm doing and care about my future. Before, I didn't know how many people had my back,'' said the El Camino High School senior.

He was feeling nauseated Thursday morning and thought he couldn't make the blood drive at Shepherd of the Valley Church, but when he saw the full parking lot, he got a surge of energy.

After 1 1/2 years of being misdiagnosed, Mailes got the word in August that what afflicts him is cancer.

``The driving force, especially this time of year, is it's the season for giving, and if you can give life, what better gift is there?'' said Craig Burns, who along with his wife, spearheaded efforts to help the Mailes family. ``All we need is one (match), and this drive opens up so many possibilities for so many other people.''

Members of the West Hills church immediately stepped in to try to find a donor for the boy they had watched grow up and to lend support to his family. His single mother, Alison Mailes, had always hesitated to ask anybody for help.

``It's the human story, knowing Alison's story - a single mom raising three kids on her own who would never ask anyone for anything,'' said Cathi Cornell, 41, who helped organize the blood drive. ``That's what we're put here for - people helping each other. At least that's what I hope.''

The mother, overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support, said she feels she's getting a hundredfold return on the love she's given in her life.

``It's like God in 3-D,'' she said. ``It's been easy for me to love all my life, and it's being returned 100 times.''

And when somebody so dear to a close-knit community suffers, it becomes personal, and the experience has taught all involved that life is about giving.

While church members hope and pray to find a match for Mailes, the silver lining is that the testing will add more people to the national donor registry.

``Even if we aren't able to be a match for Jeff, we've made a commitment to be in the registry, and we may be able to help someone else,'' said Rhonda Smith, 47, of West Hills after she had her blood tested.

Jeff Mailes says the experience has taught him to reprioritize his life. Getting accepted into a top university used to be most important. Now he realizes nothing is more important to him than good health, family and friends.

``There's no formula for life, I've learned,'' he said. ``There's not (just) one way you can do something.''

Naush Boghossian, (818) 713-3722

naush.boghossian(at)dailynews.com

If you are interested in having your blood tested or in getting updates on Jeff Mailes' condition, e-mail prayerbox(at)infojmailes.com.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Jeff Mailes, right, gets a hug from his mom. With them are Craig and Kym Burns, who organized a blood drive to try to find a bone marrow match for Jeff, who has cancer.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 25, 2005
Words:635
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