'She's like an angel to me': Watch Barbara Bush remember her child lost to cancer

When former first lady Barbara Bush is laid to rest in Texas, she will be near a dear loved one: her daughter, Robin, who passed away at age 3.

Robin was diagnosed with leukemia in 1953, a time with the cancer was considered a death sentence. When Barbara and husband George H.W. asked doctors what they needed to do, they were given a heartbreaking response.

"She said, 'You don't do anything. She's going to die," Mrs. Bush told her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, in a TODAY interview. "She said, 'My advice is to take her home, love her. In about two weeks, she'll be gone."

The family didn't accept that answer and instead took her across the country for treatment, but it was unsuccessful. She passed away just before her 4th birthday.

"I was combing her hair and holding her hand," Mrs. Bush said. "I saw that little body, I saw her spirit go."

Decades later, leukemia is no longer a death sentence for children. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital estimates the survival rate for the most common type of leukemia to be 94 percent, thanks to improved technology as well as cells and DNA preserved from patients treated in the 1960s, according to hospital doctors.

Barbara Bush through the years: 

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Former first lady Barbara Bush throughout the years
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Former first lady Barbara Bush throughout the years
First Lady Barbara Bush sheltering (from sun) under umbrella, listening to her incumbent husband George speak at campaign rally. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
politician US President George HW Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush wave from a lectern, Saudi Arabia, November 22, 1990. The visit, occurring during Operation Desert Shield, was part of a Thanksgiving tour. (Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ed Bailey/PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
Former First Lady, Barbara Bush listens to speakers during the second day of the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images)
FILE WASHINGTON, DC - NOV 19, 1992: Barbara Bush gives Hillary Clinton a tour of the White House. (Photo by James A. Parcell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush participates in the coin toss ahead of the start of Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons as former first lady Barbara Bush looks on in Houston , Texas, U.S., February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Gov. George W. Bush gives his mother and former first lady Barbara Bush a hug after a family portrait session, June 10. The Bush family was in Houston celebrating the 75th and 74th birthdays, respectively, of the former president and first lady. aal/ Photo by Adrees A. AAL/RC
First Lady Barbara Bush waving to crowd at campaign rally. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
US President George Bush, Queen Elizabeth II and First Lady Barbara Bush shake hands with Mike Gallego, Rick Honeycutt, and Jose Canseco of the Oakland Athletics at game between the Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles. (Photo by � Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
First Lady Barbara Bush and Russian First Lady Naina Yeltsin cooking a huge cauldron of soup at a homeless facility during the Yeltsins' trip to Washington. (Photo by Carol T. Powers/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush, along with Second Lady Jill Biden (R), greets members of the audience during an event to honor the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House in Washington July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
First Lady Barbara Bush carrying grandchild Ellie in Kennebunkport. (Photo by David Valdez/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama laughs alongside former first lady Barbara Bush during the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, April 25, 2013. Obama is in Texas to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former president George W. Bush in what could serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against terrorism, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Boston Marathon bombings. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
First Lady Barbara Bush wearing Rangers jacket w. her arm around son George W. Bush. (Photo by Phil Huber/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
KENNEBUNK, ME - MAY 19: Former first lady Barbara Bush waves to the crowd as she arrives at the dedication of the Mathew J. Lanigan bridge Friday, May 19, 2017. The bridge was first built in 1933 and connects Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. The new bridge cost $2.7 million and was completed in a very short time frame. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - FEBRUARY 19: Jeb Bush's wife Columba Bush, left, and former first lady Mrs. Barbara Bush share a moment during a campaign event with Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush February 19, 2016 in Greenville, South Carolina. The South Carolina Republican primary will be held Saturday, February 20. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Former first lady Barbara Bush looks on before game five of the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by David J. Phillip - Pool/Getty Images)
Barbara Bush, former U.S. first lady, center, center, looks over a menu while having lunch her son Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, at MaryAnn's Diner in Derry, New Hampshire, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. Bush appeared alongside Barbara Bush reminding voters of his political dynasty in a last-ditch attempt to revive his faltering campaign. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Barbara Bush, former U.S. first lady, left, and her son Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, right, stand for a photograph with an employee at MaryAnn's Diner in Derry, New Hampshire, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. Bush appeared alongside Barbara Bush reminding voters of his political dynasty in a last-ditch attempt to revive his faltering campaign. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former first lady Barbara Bush (L) and Jenna Welch, mother of first lady Laura Bush, listen as U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush speak about global literacy at the New York Public Libary in New York City September 18, 2006. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)
First lady Laura Bush (L) stands with former U.S. President George H. W. Bush (C) as his wife Barbara Bush (R) speaks during dedication ceremonies at the restored childhood home of U.S. President George W. Bush in Midland, Texas, April 11, 2006. The Bushes lived in the house from 1952-1955. REUTERS/Jeff Mitchell
First lady Laura Bush (L) and her mother-in-law Barbara Bush (R) wave to reporters as they await President George W. Bush's return to the White House from a short visit to Florida, May 10, 2006. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former first ladies Nancy Reagan (R), Barbara Bush (C) and former Secretary of State George Schultz (L) sing during a memorial service for billionaire publisher, philanthropist, and former U.S. ambassador to Britain, Walter Annenberg at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, December 6, 2002. Annenberg, who created Seventeen magazine and TV Guide died October 1, 2002, at the age of 94. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer TMS
First Lady Barbara Bush embraces Mrs. Hillary Clinton as she welcomes her to the White House November 19, 1992 on her first visit to Washington since her husband's election victory over President George Bush. The Clintons will move into the White House on January 20. Reuters/Steve Jaffe
KENNEBUNKPORT, UNITED STATES: Former first lady Barbara Bush (L) shakes hands with a priest after atttending Sunday service at Saint Ann's Episcopal Church as former US president George H.W. Bush ((R) looks on 27 August 2006 in Kennebunkport, Maine. US President George W. Bush was in Kennebunkport to visit his parents and to attend a relative's wedding. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MAY 10: Former first lady Barbara Bush takes a photograph from the Truman Balcony, while her son, U.S. President George W. Bush, returns to the White House May 10, 2006 in Washington, DC. President Bush was returning from a trip to Florida where he was promoting the Medicare prescription drug benefit program. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Former First Lady Barbara Bush speaks to a packed House chamber in Austin, where she gave readings from her new book, 'Reflections,' an account of life after the White House. The event was a part of the Texas Book Festival, founded in 1995 by current First Lady Laura Bush. (Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 2587 -- Pictured: (l-r) Former First Lady Barbara Bush during an interview with host Jay Leno -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
U.S. President George Bush (L) and First Lady Barbara Bush play with confetti 20 August 1992 as it showered them at the 1992 Republican National Convention. The confetti and more than 100,000 balloons were dropped after the president concluded his speech. (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
US First Lady Barbara Bush and her son George Bush Jr attend the 1992 Republican National Convention on August 17, 1992 in Houston. AFP PHOTO CHRIS WILKINS (Photo credit should read CHRIS WILKINS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 7: This file photo shows former US First Lady Barbara Bush (L) as she prepares to throw a rugby ball 07 February 1992,in Washington,DC, after receiving it from Mary Sullivan (R), captain of the US national women's rugby team. The US team, which won the World Cup, received the Team Spirit Award from Mrs. Bush. (Photo credit should read ROBERT GIROUX/AFP/Getty Images)
Pres. George Bush and First Lady Barbara (in sunglasses) riding in their Cigarette boat Fidelty w. an unident. man. (Photo by Susan Biddle/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
American First Lady Barbara Bush at the White House's Christmas party. (Photo by jean-Louis Atlan/Sygma via Getty Images)
5-1989 On the left is the first lady Barbara Bush Going over the list of Items to be put on the Cart on the far right is Neil Bush her son and helper at the Food Bank Phillip Warth is the smiler And Volunteer Sam Aguilar is helping to fill order and show the first Lady where things are ***** Credit: The Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)
First Lady Barbara Bush Holding Out Hands (Photo by � Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES: (L-R) First Lady Barbara Bush and Barbara Walters 1989 (Photo by Kimberly Butler/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES: President George H.W. Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush and Barbara Walters 1989 (Photo by Kimberly Butler/ABC via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -- FEBRUARY 23: (L to R) First Lady Nancy Reagan, Mrs. Barbara Bush, President Ronald Reagan, and Vice President George H.W. Bush gather at the Vice President's residence on February 23, 1981 in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images).
During his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination, American politician (and future US President) George HW Bush (left) sits with his wife, future First Lady Barbara Bush, and watch television, Iowa, January 1980. (Photo Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images)
NBC NEWS -- 'Ronald Reagan First Presidential Inauguration' -- Pictured: (l-r) U.S. Vice President George Bush, Second Lady Barbara Bush during the first inauguration of President Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1981 in Washington D.C. -- (Photo by: NBC News/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Former first lady, Barbara Bush laughs with her son at the GOP convention in Dallas, Texas in 1992. (Photo by � Bill Gentile/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
George Bush arrives at a presidential campaign event with his wife, Laura, and his mother, former First Lady Barbara. Bush won the 2000 Presidential Election against Vice President Al Gore after a controversial vote recount in Florida. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Sygma via Getty Images)
Former first lady Barbara Bush (L) and first lady Michelle Obama walk into an event honoring the 5,000th winner of the "Daily Point of Light" award in the East Room of the White House in Washington July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
FILE WASHINGTON, DC - JAN 6, 1994: Barbara Bush gives Hillary Clinton a tour of the White House. (Photo by James A. Parcell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
First Lady Barbara Bush talks with an army trooper as she and husband, President George H.W. Bush, eat a Thanksgiving Day lunch with the troops in eastern Saudi Arabia on November 22, 1990. REUTERS/Rick Wilking ( SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE
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Hager pointed out that stigma around cancer has also changed. When Robin was diagnosed, neighbors wouldn't let their children around her, for fear that they would catch the disease. The scientific and social progress over the years brings comfort to the Bushes, who donated Robin's body to research after her death.

"It made Gampy and me feel that something good is coming out of this precious little life. And today, almost nobody dies of leukemia," Bush told Hager, whose father, former President George W. Bush, was 7 when his sister died.

"Robin to me is a joy. She's like an angel to me, and she's not a sadness or a sorrow," Mrs. Bush said, remembering "those little fat arms around my neck."

RELATED: High-profile figures react to the death of Barbara Bush: 

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Reaction to the death of Barbara Bush
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Reaction to the death of Barbara Bush

**Click through the following slides to see the tributes to former first lady Barbara Bush, who passed away on April 17, 2018 at the age of 92.**

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images).

Statement by President George W. Bush on the passing of Mrs. Barbara Bush: https://t.co/PwYs9SHwo3 https://t.co/FZMcRwv0Ve
My grandmother didn't just live life; she lived it well. And the sorrow of her loss is softened by the knowledge o… https://t.co/NzarkFtCHo
.@FLOTUS Melania and I join the Nation in celebrating the life of Barbara Bush: https://t.co/4NzyjxqAFM
Statement by Governor Jeb Bush on the Passing of Mrs. Barbara Bush https://t.co/7FXQlMH9Xe
Thanks to all the prayers, texts,emails, and notes received - how lucky are we to have had Ganny in our lives! Pray… https://t.co/VnyRGCFmy6
I think my Ganny would have wanted us to remember her by picking up a book and reading to our child, grandchild, or… https://t.co/Wfr0yYhnJs
Our statement on the passing of Barbara Bush: https://t.co/haIPhDS2bd
Our statement on the passing of Former First Lady Barbara Bush: https://t.co/MhTVYCL9Nj
There was no one else quite like Barbara Bush. Jill and I — and the entire Biden family — send our heartfelt condol… https://t.co/Tiia0XYyGq
Barbara Bush was a remarkable woman. She had grit & grace, brains & beauty. She was fierce & feisty in support of h… https://t.co/0kyGOCt32Y
Barbara Bush served her country and led her family with dignity and grace. She made children's literacy a lifelong… https://t.co/8Ui5OPrgvB
Always a friend to Canada, Barbara Bush leaves a legacy of dignity, grace, service and devotion to family. Sophie a… https://t.co/oTa9aWkUZU
Statement on passing of former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush. https://t.co/rqWuQke0MT
Praying for the entire Bush family as they mourn the loss and celebrate the life of their dear matriarch, Barbara B… https://t.co/Txktiwexhi
One of the greatest First Ladies in the history of our nation has gone to her Heavenly reward. RIP #BarbaraBush
As the husband of an exceptional woman myself, I know all she meant to President George H.W. Bush & their family. S… https://t.co/hOXpEfH84V
Barbara Bush served her country with class. She served her family with love and compassion. I’m grateful I knew her… https://t.co/59KQJ7jAvg
My prayers are with the Bush family at the passing of their beloved Barbara, an eternal First Lady in the heart of… https://t.co/w0SaSh3RqZ
From her scrappy demeanor and no-frills style to her boundless passion for family, literacy and freedom, Barbara Bu… https://t.co/j2iPlbp78q
Barbara Bush wielded her formidable qualities on behalf of her nation, the family she loved, and the many worthy ca… https://t.co/F6Lu7ln11Q
The U.S. Secret Service expresses sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Barbara Bush, the epitome of class and… https://t.co/4BWaP2qcjB
When I first met Barbara Bush in 1988 as she entertained spouses of congressional candidates at the @VP Residence,… https://t.co/5rTk2v6afc
Throughout her life, Barbara Bush showed us all the importance of charity, literacy, and love of country. Our thoug… https://t.co/gWRsnRnCzr
A very nice and friendly former First Lady Barbara Bush dies Matriarch of Presidential families and civic leader… https://t.co/6a60ZJnleR
Ohioans join with all Americans to mourn the death of Barbara Bush, a woman of grace, humility, great compassion an… https://t.co/lFIwqaBWMw
What a wonderful life was lived by Fmr. First Lady Barbara Bush. Condolences to the entire Bush family.
America lost a great woman, a great mother and a great wife. Barbara Bush’s life has always been a shining example… https://t.co/YFCP3CjbhQ
Offering heartfelt condolences to the entire Bush family. May you find peace and comfort in fond memories of an inc… https://t.co/p7ofIuK4Dg
Former first lady Barbara Bush has passed away at the age of 92. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jenna and the en… https://t.co/x2Oazcv49x
Mrs. Bush served our country with dignity and grace. Liz and I send our thoughts and prayers to both Presidents Bus… https://t.co/jsWtKpgHL8
Mrs. Bush was feisty, gracious, beautiful, and exemplary in the unique family and societal roles she embraced. I ha… https://t.co/u6ygYzW8QM
Louise and I are sending our heartfelt condolences and prayers to the entire Bush family tonight. Barbara Bush was… https://t.co/0KmRVLW4ha
I send my thoughts to the family of former First Lady Barbara Bush. The wife of former President @GeorgeHWBush and… https://t.co/lrP4PdrDon
Barbara Bush was a great lady and a dear friend. Her passing is a terrible loss for the Bush family, the Sununu fam… https://t.co/XDbD6QLjud
“To us, she was so much more.” Fmr President George W Bush on the passing of his mother Fmr First Lady Barbara Bush https://t.co/1d00Qognv8
Rest In Peace Mrs. Barbara Bush. You were a beautiful light in this world and I am forever thankful for your friend… https://t.co/af8WDiAjpW
Our dear Barbara Bush. A grand lady, a great friend...she made the White House a brighter place. How we will miss y… https://t.co/3JBjKb0lau
Our prayers go out to the Bush family tonight as we mourn the passing of a terrific woman, former First Lady Barbar… https://t.co/NayRoPU4ni
#BarbaraBush represented everything that America stands for. She was strong willed but full of compassion. A great… https://t.co/t4cxvKmyFt
Barbara Bush, R.I.P. An angel on her way to heaven. Adrienne and I want to express our gratitude for a life ded… https://t.co/aGzgYNsMnx
So very sad about former First Lady Barbara Bush...I was so lucky to interview her many times and even so very fort… https://t.co/gmaidy2KbY
RIP Barbara Bush. A truly amazing life. She lived it on her terms until the very end. She was adored by her childre… https://t.co/g38QTk4bHU
With compassion and grace, Barbara Bush inspired generations of Americans. My deepest condolences go to President G… https://t.co/oCRad3vDrf
She was strong, she was tough, and oh, she was passionate, especially about her family.... I admired her so... R.I.P. Barbara Bush..🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼
Barbara Bush was a woman of incredible determination, wit, and compassion who embodied America’s best values. My de… https://t.co/G2XheGstyt
Rest In Peace Barbara Bush. You showed us what servant leadership, commitment to family, patriotism, and courage looked like. #MakeItMatter
Barbara Bush was an inspiring and influential First Lady. Becky and I are saddened by her passing, but we know that… https://t.co/40lDLao06N
Our prayers for the family of former First Lady Barbara Bush. She will be missed and we are better off because of her time here on earth.
Thank you #BarbaraBush - you made our nation a better place, Rest In Peace https://t.co/dtuu15DMyt
God bless the soul of Barbara Pierce Bush, First Lady, First Mother, a matriarch and a patriot. Condolences to the Bush family.
Hoy es un día triste. La muerte d Barbara Bush se lleva un gran ser humano. Nuestra nación llora la pérdida de una… https://t.co/SXcwQb3Vcj
Former First Lady Barbara Bush was a pillar of strength for her family and was much admired in our country. Both th… https://t.co/xDmmJzOBlJ
Barbara Bush holds a revered place in the hearts of generations of Americans. She so loved her family and our count… https://t.co/abbVbmy2A1
Our thoughts are with the Bush family as they grieve the loss of former first lady Barbara. She will forever be in… https://t.co/AwBWIdgl9C
I give my best wishes to former first lady Barbara Bush and condolences to the Bush family. For decades, Barbara se… https://t.co/lczbqcpaNl
We're saddened by the loss of former First Lady Barbara Bush. In her honor, here's a pic of her and former Presiden… https://t.co/WafZen6pUm
Barbara Bush was an unrelenting force for decency, community, and patriotism. As First Lady and throughout her life… https://t.co/q7ebaP2RGn
"In her loving memory, the City of Houston and the Houston Public Library Foundation will work to complete the mas… https://t.co/7tuFlF7Luf
Statement by Nixon daughters: "Barbara Bush remains a shining role model for all Americans, most especially our you… https://t.co/00W3kFoxpw
Mrs. Bush personified grace and class as First Lady and throughout her life; she will be missed. I send my heartfel… https://t.co/AlPP17itAu
Separate @FLOTUS statement just issued. https://t.co/VWRk57uAeq
Saddened to learn of the passing of Barbara Bush, a woman of great strength, dignity and good humor, she will be missed.
Sending my sincere condolences and prayers to The Bush family. 🙏🏻 https://t.co/BGb9CLhPIR
It was a pleasure to have met. Thoughts and prayers to the Bush Family. Much beloved. She will be greatly missed. https://t.co/99G7AifPzd
Ann and I send our deepest condolences to the Bush family upon the passing of First Lady Barbara Bush tonight. Main… https://t.co/JojFn4nkRr
Mrs. Bush embodied leadership, public service and loyalty. Sending thoughts and prayers to the Bush family. It was… https://t.co/wJEEtgZn5n
Statement from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter on the passing of Barbara Bush. https://t.co/OibQmXipao
Our country will be forever grateful & indebted for the impact former First Lady Barbara Bush had on improving lite… https://t.co/VCLjg8F7kr
I'm ever more aware these days of the importance of the example that comes from the White House. I'm so grateful th… https://t.co/rRBJp8lOyn
Prayers with the Bush family tonight. Barbara Bush was an amazing lady and will be missed!
Extending heartfelt sympathy to the Bush family this evening. A few months after I was fired from The View...Mrs.… https://t.co/x3bxiWVBah
Barbara Bush was known for her immeasurable kindness and generosity as First Lady, mother, wife, grandmother, and g… https://t.co/UA8SMiG9ah
First Lady Barbara Bush was dedicated to our state and devoted to our country. I'm joining Texans and Americans eve… https://t.co/P2FOEfWQQu
America just lost a tireless leader for family literacy. Your legacy of public service will live on. May you rest e… https://t.co/7HTur6P57p
Reid Ryan has issued the following statement: https://t.co/sCFRThbdgF
A woman of great dignity, grace, & humanity. Her love of family & country was second to none, and her work to incre… https://t.co/rw6ZoZRo2z
Barbara Bush lived an incredible life. I’m sending my love to her family.
Barbara Bush lived an extraordinary life of devotion, love, and laughter. She was a blessing to the First Family an… https://t.co/cLJjNCikrh
We mourn the passing of Barbara Bush, who believed that the world would be a better place if more people could read… https://t.co/bOAvedosKd
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