Ana-Alecia Fernandez Ayala of Dallas won the hearts of many last year when she appeared in a viral video, dancing to Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall’s “Juju on That Beat” with a friend. What made her video different is that she danced in a hospital gown as she was receiving chemotherapy for uterine sarcoma, a rare cancer. Sadly, on January 18, Ayala died, but not without inspiring many and even appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
The 32-year-old Ayala leaves behind her husband and three-year-old daughter.
Here’s a look at her story.
1. She Was Diagnosed in December 2015 After a Rare Tumor in Her Uterus Was Found
Ayala’s fight with cancer began in December 2015, when she was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma after doctors found a rare tumor in her uterus, reports WFAA. The cancer spread to her ovaries and the lining of her stomach.
A few weeks after the diagnosis, she did have a procedure to have the turmor removed, but a new tumor was found in July 2016 on her spleen. She then had to undergo an aggressive form of chemotherapy.
“In-patient treatment was rough at first,” Ayala told KVUE in October 2016. “Being away from our 3-year-old was the hardest part. We had her birthday party in my hospital room in July, and the nurses came in and sang to her.”
Before the discovery of her first tumor, Ayala and her husband were trying to have their second child.
2. Ayala’s Dancing Video Earned Over 9 Million Hits
In the video that made Ayala a viral sensation, she’s seen dancing to “Juju on That Beat” with a friend she made at Baylor T. Boone Pickens Cancer Hospital in Dallas. In her interview with KVUE after the video went viral, Ayala said she met her dancing partner in 2015. She always helped Ayala get distracted from the seriousness of her situation.
“She would come sit with me in my chemo session always bringing me entertainment — magazines, arts and crafts. Things to keep me distracted,” Ayala told KVUE. “But she loves a good dance party. We did a dance to Meghan Trainor’s ‘Me Too’ song last time, but never posted it online. This time she encouraged me to post it and everyone has been so sweet to share it and get it out there.”
In May 2016, Ayala created a GoFundMe Page to help her pay for treatments. She just barely passed her $12,000 and you can still donate to help her family.
3. Ayala Told Ellen DeGeneres That She Was ‘Determined to Stay Positive’ During her Battle With Cancer
In November 2016, Ayala and her friend Danielle both appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where the host applauded her positive outlook. “I’m determined to stay positive,” she told DeGeneres. “I’m determined to take this diagnosis. I’m determined to make the most out of it. And there is life after diagnosis… It’s really important to me to show the world that.”
4. She Died With Her Family By Her Side
Ayala’s sister confirmed to WFAA that Ayala died on January 18, with her family and loved ones by her side. A family priest was also there.
The sad news came two weeks after her final post on Instagram. It was a message that read, “Dear God, let all cancer fighters ring in the new year with complete healing. Amen.”
5. Ayala Wanted to Inspire Other Cancer Patients to ‘Not Look at Cancer as a Death Sentence’
In her KVUE interview in October 2016, Ayala said that she hoped she could inspire others to “not look at cancer as a death sentence and try to make the most of bad situations.” She wanted cancer patients to try new things.
“I also want to encourage cancer patients loved ones to step out of their comfort zones (as Danielle did for me) and be silly, have a dance party, be present in the moment and have a great time,” she told KVUE. “Laughter is the best medicine and I hope to make people smile, even at the expense of my bad dance moves.”