23 months after being diagnosed with a type of cancer called Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, Iliana Bellard was mocked at a nail salon for “looking like a boy” because she had hair loss as a result of chemotherapy. The cancer survivor now has words of wisdom for anyone who is teased in a similar way: “If anyone called you a boy, no matter what, you’re pretty.”
According to WJLA, the local ABC station near her hometown of Quantico, Virginia, Iliana’s mother said Iliana was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma in January of 2017 and placed on palliative care—but she fought the disease and miraculously is now in remission. To celebrate, she and her mom went to the nail salon for manicures.
Iliana’s aunt later posted on Facebook that some of the staff members made fun of the brave little girl, which sparked outrage online, with salon patrons posted on sites like Yelp. One frequent patron in particular, Brandy, was particularly touched by the story as an ovarian cancer survivor herself, and stepped in as manager of the day spa. She has since let one employee go and suspended two others for their involvement in the inappropriate behavior.
The salon has issued a formal online apology, and Brandy is determined to make it up to the girl. “By all means, if I get the chance to meet them and to apologize and to fix things, she will know that she is gorgeous when she walks out that door,” she told WJLA. Iliana’s parents are trying to use this experience as a way to educate people on how dangerous bullying can be—and Iliana, her mother says, is recovering from the upsetting interaction.
ALCL is a very rare kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which originates in the lymphatic system. This system helps fight disease throughout the body. ALCL usually appears in the neck, chest, skin, bones or lungs, and accounts for about 10% of all pediatric non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases in the United States. It is most often treated with chemotherapy.