INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s on the “hottest toy list” every year, and this year, thousands of kids will likely open and play with their brand-new American Girl doll.
For one little girl, though, her doll is more of a confidant. It is also treated as a fellow cancer patient.
Doctors told Alydia Brylowski she had leukemia in April 2018. Within days of her diagnosis, the 4-year old began chemotherapy.
There are two things people notice most about Alydia. First, she doesn’t say much. The little girl just giggles. Second, she has a matching American Girl doll that goes everywhere.
Ask Alydia who sent her “Lia,” her American Girl doll, and she’ll say it was her fairy godmother.
“She sent a matching outfit and some matching hats, a hospital gown for Lia, too,” Angie Brylowski told CBS4. “When we came up with the name for Lia, she made little hospital bracelets so she could have a hospital bracelet just like Alydia.”
“It looks like me,” Alydia said, smiling.
Alydia started taking Lia to her chemo treatments. The nurses talked to Lia, just like they did any other patient.
“The child life specialist came in and said, ‘Oh, who is your friend? Does she have cancer too?’ Then she went and got the butterfly, which is what they call the needle they use to access the port,” Angie explained. “The nurse we had that day accessed Lia the same way they accessed Alydia. They cleaned her the three times and they counted before they did the butterfly.”
Alydia and Lia went without hair for a long time because of the chemotherapy. Eventually, Alydia needed braces on her ankles.
“Chemotherapy is really hard on your body, and for Alydia, our biggest side effect has been that it has ruined the refluxes in her legs and has taken away the muscle mass in her legs,” Angie explained. “The braces are to help prevent anything from getting worse.”
The man that made Alydia’s braces noticed Lia needed a pair, too.
“He immediately realized how special Lia was to Alydia and was like, ‘I’ve never made braces this tiny before, but I might be able to,” Angie remembered.
A friend of the Brylowskis welded together an IV cart for Lia and Angie bought “chemo” bags for the doll as well.
“Never did I dream that it would be as beneficial to Alydia as it has been,” she said. “The moment we brought Lia into clinic with us, everybody treated Lia like she was a person. Clinic days became not as scary for Alydia.”
Alydia started playing “diagnosis day” and “chemo day” with her doll at home, too.
“I think having Lia to go through things with her, does a couple of things,” Dr. Kyle Jackson told CBS4. “It helps her to sort of normalize and have a friend go through the same things with her.”
Dr. Jackson said because Alydia’s care is out of her hands, having Lia lets Alydia have control over her doll.
“A lot of parts of her treatment can be challenging,” he said.
Alydia had the option to give Lia some hair, but declined.
“She said, ‘Because I want to remember this time,’” Angie explained. “Who would want to remember cancer?”
Yet, the day before Alydia met with CBS4, a stranger sent her a new doll. It had short blonde hair, just like Alydia.
“She said, ‘Mom, Lia was me before. This doll is me now.’”