NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A beauty queen isn't letting cancer stop her from competing in the Miss Arkansas Teen USA pageant.
Mackenzie Zapata is not only fighting for the crown, but also fighting for her life.
The beauty queen hopeful was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia a year ago, but has decided not to let that stop her from chasing her dreams.
The gown and the crown is an escape from reality for her.
"I have ALL leukemia," she explained, "but with mine I have the Philadelphia chromosome which keeps the blast cells growing."
Zapata said she wanted to get back into pageants before her diagnosis.
"I kept telling her, 'Mom, I want to start doing pageants again,' because I had long pretty hair and I could do things with it," she recalled.
The chemotherapy treatments caused Mackenzie's hair to fall out and she worried that she would be looked at differently.
"So it was really aggressive, so they've had to hit me with really aggressive chemos," she said.
But despite that, she decided to join the North Little Rock Police Athletic League's pageant program.
"I loved doing them before and I'm going to love doing them again," Zapata said proudly.
Matti Grace, a fellow PAL Queen and friend said she’s taught the group a lot.
"We are very lucky to have her and she's taught us what a family really means," Grace said.
It's her strength and dedication that has inspired the whole pageant group.
"Courage, it takes a lot of courage to do that," Grace said. "To feel really bad and still come here and do your best."
In October, Zapata will compete in the biggest pageant of her life. But she hopes her message is heard loud and clear, no matter the results.
"No matter what you're going through, I've been through a lot and then here I am doing this, I'm doing my dream, something that I love doing," she said.
Zapata will have another round of chemotherapy next week and her fellow PAL Queens plan to be by her side.