Brielle Kelly had a beautiful smile, a wry sense of humor and a love for all things Disney.
When she was diagnosed with cancer last year after a series of health battles that began when she was just days old, Tina Kelly said she and her husband, Matt, fully expected their strong daughter to pull through.
Indeed, the Pennsylvania girl had been showing signs of improvement, Kelly said.
She went to a dance class last week, and although she was using a walker, Brielle did all the moves. She played outdoors with her sister, Alayna, and a friend, and accompanied her mother to the supermarket.
Once there, Brielle, who loved cooking shows and enjoyed helping her parents to cook, spent more than an hour with her mother picking out groceries for their home.
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But she felt ill last Wednesday night, telling her mother “everything hurt.” She died Thursday at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Kelly, of Duncannon, Pennsylvania, said.
Brielle was 5.
“We never thought that this was going to be the ending,” Kelly, 38, said in a Tuesday interview with ABC News. “We didn’t have any plans, we didn’t know at all what to do you know when this happened because this wasn’t something that me and my husband thought of. When they told us that she had this lymphoma in her brain and liver, we knew she was going to beat it.”
Brielle's recent scans had been clear, and she was scheduled for more scans in two months, Kelly said, adding that an autopsy had been conducted but results wouldn’t be available for about a month.
The girl had had to have her small bowel removed shortly after she was born, and she had had a small bowel transplant but the organ had to be removed last year when doctors found tumors on it, leaving her dependent upon a feeding tube. Brielle was diagnosed with a B-cell lymphoma in her brain and liver and had received chemotherapy treatments.
The girl's story made headlines last year when a local charity, Jamie’s Dream Team, threw her a fantasy princess-themed party, complete with arrival by horse-drawn carriage.
Jamie Holmes, who founded Jamie’s Dream Team to help the seriously ill after battling her own catastrophic illness, told ABC that she had gotten to know the Kelly family well and was devastated by Brielle’s sudden death.
Holmes met Brielle in October, and in that time, her organization had taken her to meet Abby Lee Miller from the reality TV show “Dance Moms,” in addition to organizing the princess party.
Holmes said her organization had started a drive to collect items that sick children could use during hospitalization. The drive will now held in honor of Brielle, she said.
Holmes also said she’s working to make sure Brielle will be transported by horse-drawn hearse Monday from the funeral home to the cemetery after the funeral.
She wanted to let the girl “go to heaven as a princess ... to give her that royal treatment, you know, because she was a princess, and that is what her mother wants to remember her as,” Holmes said.
Tina Kelly will have many fond memories of her determined daughter who was scheduled to start kindergarten this year.
Once while she was staying at the hospital, Brielle had a balloon that played music when it was touched, and “whoever came in the room she would hit that balloon and she would make them dance and they would and she just had -- she was just always so happy,” Kelly said, adding that her daughter was the only child she knew who enjoyed getting grocery store fliers “because she would cut out all the food that she liked and she would glue it onto a paper and make my grocery list for me.”
Her daughter rarely let on that she was in pain, and enjoyed life to the fullest.
Kelly added: “She knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it and she was just happy, and she loved all things Disney, her favorite was Ariel and of course she and her sister loved ‘Frozen.’ She would sing all the songs, even if it bothered her sister -- probably even more if it bothered her sister.”
Kelly said she was grateful to all the people who supported her family.
“That’s always been, you know one of the things -- if she had to go through this at least she was able to bring out, you know, the good in people and I hope that she did,” she said.