A Big Girl Room for 3-year-old Fighter Lia Provides Hope for a Big Future

Lia loves music, books, dance classes, playing with baby dolls, swings, and coloring. Yet at only 3 years old, Lia has been fighting to survive for most of her life. She has very high risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), and her victories are impressive: 10 blood transfusions, 5 platelet transfusions, 21 lumbar puncture surgeries, 8 hospitalizations, 2 hair losses, 56 days wearing a backpack 24/7 for immunotherapy, 2 EKG tests, 1 blood infection, over 500 pokes/shots. Lia is considered a miracle baby by her parents, as she has no other siblings, and they remember her diagnosis of this life-threatening cancer as their worst nightmare. Her first inpatient stay was her longest at 30 days and was filled with many complications including a blood clot and wound that required wound care. After her first month of Leukemia treatment, she was in the unlucky 2% of children that did not go into remission. It took a few more months to enter remission, but other treatments continued. Lia wore a backpack that delivered a special targeted immunotherapy medicine called Blinatumomab for 2 months, even while she was sleeping, since she was so high risk.  


Before the bedroom transformation (left) and After (right)

Still in her crib in its toddler bed position, Lia’s family’s biggest request for her new room was for her to graduate to a big girl bed. They additionally needed space for her overflowing book collection, as the family had asked loved ones to send books instead of toys when Lia was going through the toughest parts of her treatment, since reading is one of her favorite activities. Lia also loves picking out headbands and bows to wear and wanted a special place to display them. These requests as well as Lia’s favorite colors of blue, pink, yellow, and purple were the basis of inspiration for her new room. 

Designing Dreams partnered with interior design firm, The Heartland, who helped make this amazing bedroom transformation possible. When asked about her thoughts on the impact of someone’s environment and their wellbeing, lead designer and owner Tara answered, “Research proves there are so many benefits from natural light in a space, biophilia and color theory. It's important for pediatric cancer patients to receive a bedroom transformation because it gives them something exciting to look forward to when their future can be so grim, and it gives them a comforting space to live, play and heal in.” We totally agree!

When starting the bedroom transformation, The Heartland team wanted the room to feel light and airy and chose to paint the walls a pale blue-sky color. They had two beautiful custom built-in bookshelves and a reading bench constructed, so Lia would be able to display all her books and have a special nook to enjoy them. Then they wanted the room to be fit for a princess, so the team included girly details such as a bed canopy, a pink velvet bedspread, floral artwork, and a scallop trim on the built-in woodwork. A gorgeous new light fixture also helped to brighten the room. 

In the days leading up to the big reveal Lia’s mom said she was so excited and just couldn’t wait to check it out. Upon finally entering her newly transformed bedroom Lia was ecstatic! She couldn’t believe her eyes as her new room exceeded all expectations. She most loves her reading bench and big bed with its princess canopy. Lia’s mother shared with us that this process has lifted the spirits of their whole family. She told us, “Your donors should know what a difference this has made. If their goal is “to make a difference for kids fighting cancer”, then that goal is made and then some. We have been looking forward to this for months, and in the middle of difficult cancer treatments, it’s been a huge light spot to have something to look forward to. We are filled with renewed hope. It has really helped us feel not alone in this battle, and it really restores our faith in humanity that people care about our daughter enough to go so far and above to bring smiles to our faces through the incredible Designing Dreams organization.”

Check out this video to see Lia's reaction to her new room!

by Kelly O'Donnell

Executive Director

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