Natalie's Fighting Spirit

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By WSIL Sports

ANNA-- It's easy to cheer for Natalie Marshall-- bubbly and bright, this
Anna sixth grader quickly leaves a lasting impression.

"You meet that girl for 5 minutes and she'll change your world
and perspective on a lot of things, just the joy that she brings to life," said SIU linebacker Connor James.

SIU safety Mike McElroy added, "I was trying to put myself in this same situation where what would I be like. Would I be someone who can still bring joy to other people and it's tough, what she's gone through and what her family's gone through."

At the impressionable age of eleven, Marshall was the driving force
behind an SIU athletics toy drive to benefit children's cancer and
Cardinal Glennon Hospital. It's a cause that's especially close to
Natalie's heart because she is one of those patients.

"When I first got diagnosed, the doctors told me I might not lose
my hair and then later on it fell out, and I was real sad," said Natalie Marshall.

Her Mom, Shelley Marshall agreed, "It has been very hard. I like to describe it, it's the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, wondering if she's okay or feeling okay, and it's the last thing I think about at night."

Now, nearly two and a half years after she was diagnosed with acute
lymphoblastic leukemia, Natalie is celebrating, the final round of chemo and with her, the 2,000 plus toys she and SIU have helped raise.

"What brings me the most joy, is this is what Natalie wanted to do
and the fact she wants to help others when she could just say this is over, she made this into something special," said Shelley.

But the realities of childhood cancer aren't easy.

"It's way more hard for kids than it is for grown-ups, because kids
don't know what's going on," said Natalie.

And still, the Marshalls' admit, much more needs to be done.

"Her leukemia is very treatable, the treatment is hard, but there is other childhood cancer that needs more research because children die, because children shouldn't die from cancer, children shouldn't die period," said Shelley.

And more than two and a half years after she first walked into
Cardinal Glennon hospital, Natalie Marshall and her family can rest easy, a return to normalcy, the cancer is gone, but not the need for awareness.

By Kelly Burke
KBurke@wsiltv.com
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