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Atascadero girl fighting leukemia hosts blood drive - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Atascadero girl fighting leukemia hosts blood drive

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Courtesy: Blake Family Courtesy: Blake Family

Kick it out and be tough. That's Annie Blake's motto. 

The five-year-old Atascadero girl is battling a fast-acting blood and bone marrow cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

Annie's mother, Misty Blake, says her typically energetic daughter was sick for two weeks leading up to her fourth birthday in the fall of 2015. 

"She knew that something was wrong," Misty said. "We kept taking her to the doctor and at first they diagnosed her with strep throat but it wasn't going away." 

Annie was persistently running a fever of 104 or 105 degrees. Doctors ordered blood work and discovered Annie's bone marrow had shut down. 

Annie's doctor told Misty to head down to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital immediately. 

Misty and her husband, Jeremy, have both served as local firefighters for more than 15 years. While they have faced scary moments on the job, their worst nightmare happened off hours on October 30, 2015.
 
"On the way down to Santa Barbara, we got the phone call saying she did, in fact, have leukemia and we got admitted and we started our journey," Misty said. 

The Blakes' fire family has been there from day one of Annie's fight. 

"The day she was diagnosed, there was a fire in Santa Barbara so CAL FIRE's strike team came to visit us and then the next day Jeremy's crew from the Forest Service 528 came to visit us," Misty said. 

Juggling Annie's treatments along with a difficult fire season was a challenge to say the least, but Jeremy says his crew has been an amazing support system. 

 "They said, 'Go do what you need to do. Don't worry about work; we'll take care of things. Just go take care of your family,'" Jeremy said. 

It's become a tradition for Annie to visit the firefighters at the Santa Barbara County Fire Station in Isla Vista for a pep talk before her monthly chemotherapy treatments at Cottage Hospital. 

You may notice Team Annie Bananie bracelets on the wrists of many local firefighters. It was one of the first fundraisers for the Blakes. The orange band is for leukemia and gold text is for childhood cancer. Annie's daily routine includes chiropractic sessions, physical therapy and counseling. 

"Every morning we're driving. We have appointments just to help her deal with the side effects from what the chemo has been doing because she's been on it for 15 months now," Misty said. 

When Annie's counts are good and she feels well enough, she loves being at preschool three days a week. 

Unfortunately, Annie's counts have plummeted several times over the course of her treatment, forcing her to stay at home. However, those setbacks have drawn Annie and her younger brother, Benjamin, closer. 

"I think this time that she's been diagnosed and gone through treatment, they've developed a more special relationship because of their constraints of staying in the house all the time and not being able to go out," Jeremy said. 

Misty says there is a silver lining to Annie's disease. 

"I think this has brought us very much closer as a family and just realized some different priorities," she said. 

The Blakes are optimistic and committed to using their experience to help others. 

Twice a year, they organize a mobile blood drive. 

"Annie has had multiple blood transfusions and platelet transfusions and without them, she wouldn't have survived," Misty said. "She needed the blood, so it's our way of giving back and helping other people."

Blood donated at Annie's drive this Saturday will be sent to United Blood Services of the Central Coast. The donations are life-saving for cancer patients like Annie. 

In extreme cases, patients may need several weeks of platelet and blood transfusion treatments to build new blood cells wiped out by chemotherapy. 

If you are nervous about donating blood, this spunky kid has some no-nonsense advice: "Be tough!" Annie said.

Saturday's blood drive won't be the first time Annie has given back. She was chosen to be the face of the St. Baldrick's Foundation's national campaign last fall that raised $77,000 for childhood cancer research. 

Annie has one more year of chemotherapy ahead of her. 

"I can swallow pills!" said Annie, who's decided to become a doctor when she grows up.

Annie is determined to fight all the way to the finish line with her brave spirit and bright smile. 

The Team Annie Bananie Mobile Blood Drive is Saturday, February 25, 2017 outside Subway at 8789 El Camino Real, Atascadero. 

Blood donation appointments are available from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To make an appointment, click here

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