WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Denise and Janaya are just like any sisters - they play and they fight, but soon they will share a unique bond that is a matter of life or death.
Denise Hale, 11, was diagnosed with Leukemia in February, and her 5-year-old sister is her only chance for survival.
Just months ago, the girls' mother, Valeria, didn't know if she'd ever watch her daughters play together again.
"They didn't expect her to make it through the night," said Valeria.
Denise's school teacher didn't know if her student would ever make it back to class.
"At times she was trying to get her work done and it was just - she would have tears rolling down her cheeks," said 5th grade teacher Melinda Wiggins.
Now, school is at home where science lessons are more than just text books - they're personal.
Leukemia attacks the bone marrow factory inside the hips by over-producing large white blood cells, crowding out the rest.
Denise's teacher used Captain Crunch cereal and marshmallows to explain what was happening to her.
"They'll take all of this out and then they're gonna give you your sister's blood," said her at-home tutor.
Doctors will extract marrow from Janaya using a long needle. The 5-year-old is the only perfect matching donor in her family.
"She say, 'Oh, I don't wanna go!' and then I said 'It's okay! Don't be crying'! I'm gonna be right there beside you,'" said Denise.
Janaya may be terrified of needles, but she's not afraid of tattling on her older sister.
"Before she go to bed she didn't take her medicine," said Janaya.
Denise knows that medicine and chemotherapy are now part of life, something she can't forget because she can see them working.
"She knows she's gonna lose her hair, but I told her since she's gonna lose her hair that I'm gonna cut my hair also," said Valeria.
These girls are a team - a family, and now they are going to the hospital, and we are going with them.
Stay with WECT and wect.com for part two of this family's journey.