Online Exclusive: Young sisters share life

Reported by Casey Roman - blog|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Denise Hale, 11, was diagnosed with Leukemia in February, and her 5-year-old sister, Janaya, is her only chance for survival.

Morning medicine became a regular routine for Denise as she underwent rounds of chemotherapy, a toxic mixture of liquid chemicals that kill every growing cell in her body.

Before the chemo she had already endured six rounds of radiation therapy.

The powerful x-ray, along with chemotherapy put her leukemia into remission, preparing her ready for a bone marrow transplant.

With this kind of medicine, getting better means she'll sometimes have to feel worse.

"You feel kinda sick to your stomach and dizzy everywhere," said Denise.

"When ever she feel goods she's in good spirits but if she don't feel good - she's sick or upset to her stomach or nauseated - she just feels miserable," said Denise's mother Valeria Hale.

Valeria stood by Denise's bedside day and night, and said the hardest part was knowing that this time she couldn't make it all better.

"I wish I could take her place - instead of that being her, be me," said Valeria.

During treatments, Denise had to take showers every few hours to keep the chemotherapy from burning her skin as it came out of her pores.

"We're basically wiping out any of her leukemia cells if there are any left and wiping out her immune system," said Dr. Stuart Gold.

Dr. Gold first told Denise she had cancer and jokingly said it was her mother's fault.  He's known for treating his patients with a heavy dose of humor.  But, in reality, researchers have yet to find a cause for leukemia.

Chemotherapy alone can cure most kids, but Denise has hypo-diploid leukemia.

"Someone who has very high risk features like Denise has, we have to use very intense chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant," said Dr. Gold.

Even with 11 million registered donors, a match is hard to find - especially for a minority, so doctors first looked in her family.

"There's about a 1 in 4 chance that a sibling will be an identical match," said Dr. Gold.

Denise actually had a 1 in 5 chance, and out of her brothers and sisters, 5-year-old Janaya was a perfect match.

A few days after Denise's chemotherapy treatments were underway, her blood cell count dropped to zero and Janaya came to visit - in effort to save her big sister's life.

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