Edmonton

'So much bravery': Little girl with cancer finds strength through dressing up

When Leslie Wyers watched four-year-old Tylo try to brush her bald head after losing her hair to chemotherapy, she felt compelled to change the narrative around her daughter’s cancer.

Now the Edmonton girl is sharing her costume collection with other kids hoping to conquer chemo fears

Tylo Wyers wears a Rapunzel costume during a chemotherapy appointment at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital. (Leslie Wyers)

When Leslie Wyers watched four-year-old Tylo try to brush her bald head after losing her hair to chemotherapy, she decided to change the narrative around her daughter's cancer. 

The two were heading out for an appointment and out of habit, Tylo grabbed the hairbrush "and started brushing her head, which was so sad," Wyers recalled.

"I realized that I needed to change the focus from what she had lost and change the dynamics of her hospital experience."

Wyers got her daughter a Rapunzel costume, in hopes that dressing up would be a fun distraction.

The young girl's response blew her away.

"When we walked onto that unit it was like she was a different person. She had so much boldness and so much bravery," Wyers said.

"It was just really impressive because the procedures that normally would cause her to cry didn't this time. And she was so proud of herself."

Four-year-old Tylo, dressed as a princess, runs down the hallway of the Stollery Children's Hospital. (Josee St-Onge/CBC)

"It was incredible. She was so filled with joy and it really was contagious."

Tylo was diagnosed with leukemia in late July and although her prognosis is good, the little girl will have to go through more than two years of chemotherapy. 

Staff at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital, where Tylo receives her treatments, can also see the difference that wearing a costume makes, Wyers said. 

"They were right on board," she said. "The staff was just amazing and played along with it and it just worked out so perfect."

Tylo tries on costumes at home as her parents Leslie and Ryan, brother Zalen, 2, and baby sister Aryla look on. (Josee St-Onge/CBC)

Paying it forward

Wanting to build on the positive experience, Wyers went on social media to ask for help building a collection. Soon, she found herself with more than 75 different costumes.

Inspired by the response, she created a service where other children with cancer could access costumes for their own treatments.

"If they could get any of the experience that Tylo got out of it, then that is now my focus. That is what I want for those other kids."

Leslie Wyers received more than 75 costumes after asking for donations on social media. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Wyers' husband Ryan designed a website featuring the available costumes and Joy Again was born. 

They are continuing to collect more costumes to offer options for boys and girls of all ages. In particular, they are seeking superhero or other outfits with an empowering nature.

More than anything, Wyers wants to help other children with cancer discover their inner strength. 

"I want people to understand, like Tylo discovered, that there is a strength and there is a boldness on the inside of them that can come out."

About the Author

Josee St-Onge

Journalist

Josee St-Onge is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has also reported in French for Radio-Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Reach her at josee.st-onge@cbc.ca

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