Marshall Family Fighting Leukemia Together

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marshall_family1.JPGWhen the Marshall family settled in New Orleans in 1999, they were there to stay. They didn't bargain on Hurricane Katrina uprooting their family only six years later.

Nor did they realize the hurricane would be a minor event compared to a personal storm that would strike the family just as they re-planted their roots in Texas.

Addison Marshall was 12 years old when he moved with his parents and older brother to Fulshear, Texas, outside of Houston, after the hurricane. He immediately got involved with the activities any youthful boy would -- football, Boy Scouts and hanging out with his buddies.

A mother knows when something is wrong

During spring football training in 2009, the tough-skinned 15-year-old started complaining about a pain in his side.

"Addison never complains so we immediately knew something wrong," recalls his mother, Valerie. "We thought maybe he had cracked a rib during football practice."

Visiting the doctor, the Marshalls learned that Addison had three cracked ribs caused by an enlarged spleen. A blood test showed that his white blood count was abnormally high as well. Addison's grandfather battled leukemia as an adult, so the Marshalls feared what the high blood counts meant.

Transferring to MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital, their fears were realized as Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer.

"After going through Hurricane Katrina together and then facing a cancer diagnosis, we've really learned what strength we have as a family," Val says.

To distract himself from the chemotherapy treatments, Addison focused his sights for the next 12 months on football and preparing himself to rejoin his team at Foster High School for spring training. Then, with practice starting in a few days, the family was dealt another blow -- his cancer had relapsed in his central nervous system.

Support from a strong family and community

"Addison continues to amaze me with his attitude and resilience. It keeps us going," says Jack Marshall, Addison's father. "His friends and our community have been a tremendous source of support, hosting fundraisers, pitching in to do yard work and everything in between."

Recently, a group of friends from Addison's Boy Scout troop and football team, led by former coach Mac McStravick, embarked on an 80-mile hike through Sam Houston National Forest. Over the course of four days in 100-degree weather, the "Marching With Marshall" group endured many challenges along the hike to show their support for Addison.

"Addison is a fine young man, and he's going through a lot right now," McStravick says. "We are doing this to show our strength and support for him, and to let him know that we are here for him."

Addison has his own journey to complete as he continues to receive treatment for his cancer. That doesn't stop him, though, from maintaining the life of a typical teenager -- working out, playing with his dog Pineapple, hanging out with friends and showing off his new car.

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