JSerra Catholic High School student Duncan Starkenburg was playing video games with his friends on a Sunday morning years ago when he was told he immediately had to go to the emergency room.

Duncan, who is now 17 years old, had just graduated eighth grade and was feeling a bit under the weather. While his parents initially assumed it was a run-of-the-mill illness—he had mono before—he decided to get tested as a precaution.

Those concerns gave way to a grim diagnosis, as Duncan learned he had T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). The treatment for his specific form of leukemia took three years, including steroids that caused bad side effects.

“My life was kind of hectic,” Duncan said. “I wasn’t able to be a freshman. I wasn’t in a place to be in school.”