Best friends battle illness together

The bond of a best friend is priceless, and for two Soperton girls, that relationship is even more important.

Like any kid starting a new school, D'Asia Anderson was nervous. But after meeting Jaliyah Johnson, the nerves went away. Anderson and Johnson have been friends since the 8th grade. That bond has grown stronger now that the two are facing life-threatening illnesses.

Johnson has brain cancer and Anderson was diagnosed with scleroderma, which makes your skin and connective tissues harden.

"I'm not able to walk long distances, I'm not able to do a lot of things for myself, as far as I have to have help getting dressed or doing my hair," she said.

Eating is a problem, too. The disease makes it difficult for her esophagus to close.

Also, the skin on her face tightens, causing her nose to thin.

She says the most painful of all are the ulcers on her hands.

"From the loss of blood supply and oxygen to the tips of the fingers, so basically the tips of the fingers are dying," said Kelly Toler, a physicians assistant, at Georgia Dermatology.

To help curb symptoms Anderson gets chemotherapy..

"It causes me to be very tired and drained," said Anderson. "And makes it hard to swallow."

In October, she learned her best friend was also sick, and would have to undergo chemotherapy.

Johnson has also undergone surgery and radiation to remove a tumor on the left side of her brain..

To get the right side of her body working again, she's in physical therapy at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

At first she says it was frustrating.

"I know how to move my legs and arms. I just had a problem, it was slower," said Johnson.

But now she's moving faster.

Johnson also goes to speech therapy.

"She doesn't need a whole lot, but we've been working a lot on memory, organization, executive functioning," said Andrea Whitt, speech language pathologist.

"I can talk better. Before I couldn't talk," added Johnson.

Johnson and Anderson aren't the only ones working through illness. Their mothers are, too.

"Sometimes I ask, 'Why did it have to happen to her?," said Anderson's mother.

"It's hard for her to say, 'Help me,' and it's hard for me to try to help her when I know I need to help her but I need to let her do it on her own. So it's like a whirlwind," said Johnson's mother.

Because of treatment, the teens don't get to see each other as often as they'd like, but that doesn't mean they aren't thinking about one another.

"I go to sleep, I think about, 'Am I going to wake up the next morning? Is she going to wake up the next morning?,'" said Anderson.

"She is always caring," said Johnson.

Each family travels from Soperton to Atlanta for treatment. That's around 150 miles.

A Soperton woman is raising $20,000 to help them out.

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