When you're sick, you look for motivation to keep going and fight on anywhere you can find it. While I worked hard to avoid fictional tales of cancer, as those often ended in tragedy, reading about the real-life fights by other people, especially teens like myself, was an uplifting and inspiring experience that I looked forward to. I "liked" so many Facebook pages, wrote letters and emails, and read about the progress and achievements of other kids who had to go through what I did. And no story inspired me more than that of Talia Castellano.
At only 13, Talia, a makeup guru and YouTube celebrity, battled cancer for over six years. She recorded video blogs both from home and in the hospital, always with a smile on her face. Initially diagnosed with stage IV Neuroblastoma, she was in remission for two years before relapsing twice, eventually developing pre-leukemia. She was a guest on Ellen, citing Ellen DeGeneres' character Dory in Finding Nemo for giving her the determination to "just keep swimming." She was an honorary Covergirl. And at 11:22 a.m. on Tuesday morning, July 16, Talia passed away.
I'd read stories of other young cancer fighters who'd lost their battle, but none impacted me so much as Talia's did. I fought back tears as I read the status update on her Facebook page, not hesitating for a moment to share the beautiful photo of her that had been posted with the announcement. And then I remembered she was only thirteen.
Talia accomplished more in her 13 years than most people can hope to accomplish in a lifetime. She pursued her passion for makeup, achieving internet fame and notoriety for her talent. She smiled through so much pain and struggle, always making the best of her situation. She appreciated every miracle that came her way, whether it was a new YouTube subscriber or a positive update from her doctors. She was working on developing a clothing line in the months before her passing. All this by age 13 -- it goes to show that Talia was truly a fighter.
I'm proud to call Talia one of my role models and inspirations, someone who will continue to influence me for the rest of my life. Her bucket list, with so many things unchecked, will serve as my reminder to live every day as if I could relapse tomorrow.
Thank you, Talia, for being you, and for becoming the beautiful and unforgettable face of fighting cancer. May you rest in peace.