Making a Difference: Disney transforms pediatric cancer patients into princesses

5:59 PM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Follow three-year-old Izzy Dean, and she'll take you on a journey as quick as her attention span: from puppet shows to jam sessions, from the playground to experiences that most toddlers never have to face.

"You never think, 'Oh, my kid could have cancer,'" says her mom, Christine.

But two years ago, Christine noticed Izzy acting tired, turning pale, and bruising easily. Christine took her daughter to the doctor, thinking she might be anemic. In August 2011, Izzy was diagnosed with leukemia.

"I was a mess in the beginning," Christine recalls. "Just watching how tough Izzy was, watching how well she adjusted -- it was like, okay, if she's handling it this well, I've got to handle it." 

Since Izzy's diagnosis, the Children's Cancer Center in South Tampa has become her second home.

And on Wednesday, it was the Cancer Center that helped transform her into a Disney princess.

Disney on Ice: Rockin' Ever After is coming to the Tampa Bay Times Forum starting on Thursday, so Disney teamed up with the Children's Cancer Center and a group called Queen for a Day. They selected five little girls who are battling cancer, and treated them to a day of makeup, story time with Disney character Belle, and food that looked as elegant as their princess dresses.

Izzy chose to dress up as Rapunzel from the Disney movie Tangled. It's the movie Izzy's family watched every day when she was in the hospital.

"I feel really lucky to have such a great opportunity," Christine says. "It breaks up the monotony of chemo and clinic visits."

Izzy still goes through chemo before she goes to bed, taking up to 12 pills every night, but nothing will stop her from being a princess.

"Being in the cancer community, there's always lots of bad news," Christine says. "So to just have a day that's all about fun, we're very, very, very grateful."

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