Before 5-year-old Isabella Harvey was diagnosed with leukemia, she loved Disney princesses and playing with her four brothers and sisters. But after she got sick, cancer took over her life, Isabella's mother Pina Harvey told BuzzFeed News.
Isabella before being diagnosed with her second bout of leukemia.
When Harvey was first diagnosed at 3, she was too young to feel insecure about losing her hair, her mom said. But then three months ago, she got sick again.
"This time the whole experience was different because she's older," Pina said. "Now that she's 5, she's insecure about losing her hair. It's hard for her. She always wears a hat and never takes it off in public."
In November, after getting very ill, she spent two weeks in New York City's Sloan Kettering hospital where she had to get a port put in her head.
"It was two weeks of hell for her," Pina said.
Isabella and her mother
To find a way to cheer up her daughter, the Staten Island native connected with Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope, an organization that directly helps children battling cancer and their families.
Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope reached out to New Jersey-based photographer Alana Hubbard, of Mother Hubbard Photography. Alana, a lifelong Disney fan herself, is partnered with Bella Princess and specializes in taking princess-themed photo shoots. Together the Heart of Hope organization, Mother Hubbard Photography, and Bella Princess worked together to organize a fundraiser and photo-shoot for Isabella.
Alana was planning to drive to Sloan Kettering on Nov. 22 to take pictures of Isabella dressed up in her favorite princess outfits, but miraculously, the day before the scheduled shoot, Isabella's condition improved and she was released from the hospital.
Because of Isabella's condition, which caused her to lose her hair again, Hubbard decided to surprise the 5-year-old by asking the woman playing Cinderella, Chelsea Knutson, to wear a bald cap.
Isabella had no idea, and was nervous about the photo shoot, telling her mom she didn't want to take her hat off. But that changed when she saw the bald Cinderella.
"When Cinderella came into the room and Isabella saw she didn't have any hair, her face was priceless," Pina told BuzzFeed News. "She felt like she could be a princess too."
"She stopped being so nervous, and was smiling and calm. She took her hat off right away. It was like she was a different person."
Hubbard, the photographer, told BuzzFeed News that she decided to use a number of different backgrounds because Isabella's family said that she always wanted to travel, but hasn't been able to yet because of her cancer.
Isabella's siblings also came along so she wouldn't feel alone or overwhelmed from all the attention, and they joined her for some family snapshots.
Bella Princess and Mother Hubbard photography gifted the session to the Harvey family, and the organization that helped sponsor the shoot was on set too. They said the day left them speechless.
"Everybody there was beyond touched," said Tammi D'Antoni, a board member of the Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope Foundation. "We were beyond words. We try to grant little wishes for children with cancer, and work to support families in hands-on ways. Getting these pictures for Isabella was a joy for all of us."
"Isabella didn't know that it was a bald cap," Hubbard said. "She just thought, Wow, this is a beautiful princess, and she doesn't have hair."
Pina said Isabella just saw the pictures for the first time last week, and loved them. They helped to make her daughter feel less insecure, she said.
"I want her to be healthy and happy. Her hair doesn't make a difference to me," she said. "This definitely helped give her a boost of confidence that she needed, and showed her that anybody can be beautiful, with or without hair."