STAFFORD, VA (WJLA/CNN) – A 10-year-old cancer survivor says she was mocked by employees at a Virginia nail salon, with them making fun of her appearance.
“They called me a boy,” Iliana Bellard said.
Just recently, she and her mother had reason to celebrate.
After a January 2017 diagnosis of Stage 4 anaplastic large cell lymphoma that her mother said began in her shoulder and “eventually covered up all of her heart,” her cancer was in remission.
But a special outing to the day spa turned sour when a trio of nail technicians mocked her appearance.
"She said, ‘It looks like a boy is getting her nails done. It looks like everybody's going to think that a boy had his nails done,’” Elizabeth Bellard said.
Mrs. Bellard explained to a manager, that her daughter had just finished chemo.
This was her first outing in public.
The new salon manager, Brandy Nickle, said the employees’ behavior was unacceptable.
"Do I condone what she did? By no means. I myself had ovarian cancer,” she said.
Nickle was a longtime customer who was incensed after reading social media posts about the incident. A cancer survivor herself, she confronted the owner, who asked her for help.
Nickle said when she asked one of the nail technicians about her behavior, she just laughed, making matters worse.
"It’s not a laughing matter,” Nickle said. “She's a little girl, that's it. It should have stopped right then and there. You should have apologized, walked away."
Nickle fired one employee and suspended two others.
She's also ordered sensitivity training for every employee, including the owners.
The Bellards said their daughter is resilient and will recover from this. But they hope it will be a teachable moment for everyone about young children with cancer.
"Just bullying, it's not okay,” Elizabeth Bellard said.
Nickle said she hopes the Bellards return for a free visit. She wants to offer a personal apology.
Iliana Bellard said she won’t let anyone bring her down.
"If anyone calls you a boy, then no matter what, you're pretty,” she said.