Young Lufkin cousins battle cancer together

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Hannah Merrel and her little cousin Allison Merrel have more in common than it appears.

Over the past two years they've become a support system for each other.

"They did blood tests and found it was cancer and things have been very interesting since then," said Dalene Merrel, the mother of Hannah.

Four-year-old Hannah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia two years ago and in 2012 Tiffany Merrel said she walked down the same nightmare with now two-year-old Allison.

"It's different with your own child than, as much as I love my niece, and I do love her very much, and I grieved to watch them go through that," Tiffany Merrel said.

But support from each other has made accepting cancer easier.

Each blood transfusion for the Merrel girls has been vital.

"A lot of the blood stays here in our area but they also help to supply Texas Children's, which is the blood that they both have received and it is life saving," said Tiffany Merrel. "To watch a child be totally white as a sheet and then receive a blood transfusion and you just see that color and that light have come back is a miracle."

"A lot of people think when they give blood it's just the red blood platelets or plasma," said Dalene Merrel. "There's so many different blood products that comes from a blood donation."

Once a month, Hannah receives blood transfusions to help her immune system.

With each blood donation, these cousins are able to enjoy beautiful days like today outside.

"When you get cancer, at least with leukemia it really affects your immune system," said Tiffany Merrel. "So, you are just vulnerable to anything that you're exposed to."

The Merrels continue to enjoy life, not letting leukemia and chemotherapy hold them back.

"Thankfully because they were both over the age of one but under the age of 10, they do have the most common type of childhood cancer," said Tiffany Merrel. "So, as hard as it is to watch them at this young age go through it actually works in their favor at this point."

KTRE-TV and the Blood Center of East Texas are joining forces for blood drive that will run from July 2-8. All week, people will be able donate at locations in both Lufkin and Nacogdoches.

The blood drive is designed to boost the Blood Center's July 4 blood supply.

According to the Blood Center of East Texas Website, the blood supply usually decreases in the summertime and during the holidays. The donations will be used to help patients in the East Texas region.

Anyone who donates or attempts to donate and credits KTRE will receive a commemorative flag design T-shirt.

In addition to the days that people can donate at the Blood Center's normal locations, people can also donate from 12-6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2 at the Brookshire Bros. store located in the Gaslight Plaza Shopping Center (1807 W. Frank Street) and the Brookshire Bros. store located at 1216 South Street in Nacogdoches.

The Blood Center's Lufkin Neighborhood Donor Center is located at 202 S. Franklin. That location's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

In Nacogdoches, the donor center is located at 3520 N. University Drive. The hours at that location are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

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