Talia Joy Castellano was a young girl with a love for makeup. She had her own Youtube channel which she dedicated to her makeup tutorials and video blogs. With fans from all over the world, her channel had over 45 million views and 750,000 subscribers in 2013. Castellano was also made an honorary Covergirl after her appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in September 2012.
But she wasn’t just known for being a makeup guru, that was only half of itーthe young teen was also widely known for her fight against cancer. Having been diagnosed with a rare paediatric cancer at the age of seven, she had been in and out of hospitals ever since she was a young child. In March 2013, her cancer took a turn for the worse and Talia was ultimately told by her doctors that she would only have a few more months to live. After spending three months in palliative care, she passed away a month before her 14th birthday on July 16, 2013.
Talia Castellano and Her Fight Against Cancer
Talia Joy Castellano was born on August 18th, 1999 in Orlando, Florida. As a young child, she spent time in central Florida with her mother Desiree Castellano and in New York City with her father, Marc Winthrop. She had two sisters, Kaithlyn and Mattia Castellano and one brother, Jackson Winthrop.
She first started feeling ill at the age of 7 with a fever and unusual abdominal pain. After going to the doctor, she was brought to the hospital for an x-ray; on February 14, 2007, her x-ray results showed atypical anatomical displacements in her chest. At the age of seven, Castellano was ultimately diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of rare paediatric childhood cancer that affected the peripheral nervous system. In attempts to stop the cancer, the young girl immediately underwent five rounds of gruesome chemotherapy, as well as surgery and antibody treatments. Afterwards, Castellano was declared cancer-free for one year.
Unfortunately, the cancer had started to come back in the fall of 2008ー she relapsed as a small lymph node was detected near her heart. She was quickly admitted back into the hospital and was given surgery, followed by aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Castellano was later told to be cancer-free after finishing her treatments and stayed so for almost two years.
However, it wasn’t long until her cancer returned for a third time. In August 2010, a lymph node was once again discovered, but this time behind her pancreas. Following the previous pattern, Castellano, then 11-years old, was once again whisked away into the hospital for more surgery and chemotherapy treatments. She was then announced to be cancer free, for a third time.
Sadly, her cancer remission was short-lived as it returned for a fourth time in April of 2011. Two separate lymph notes were located near her trachea and her clavicle; her cancer seemed to keep coming back in her soft tissues. It was then that her doctors diagnosed her with a secondary cancerーMDS Preleukemia, in her bones. Having to fight against one type of cancer was hard enough, now the young girl had to go up against two; there were no treatments known to be effective in tackling both forms of cancer at the same time. Castellano was then only given a few more months to live.
At that point, the only option left for the Castellano family was to enrol Talia in clinical trialsーshe was then given novel drug therapies, not yet released in the market; these treatments ultimately provided her with an additional 11 months.
Talia Castellanno’s Youtube Channel and Media Attention
Talia was introduced to the world of makeup through Tammy DeLaRosa, a family friend who was also a cancer survivor; the two girls bonded when Talia was first diagnosed with cancer. She uploaded her very first makeup tutorial titled “Crazy Eyeliner” onto her Youtube channel on August 27, 2011 where it was viewed over 30,000 timesーand it just went from there.
“Makeup is my wig” – Talia Joy Castellano
Soon, she found herself creating make-up tutorials for her channel whenever she wasn’t at the hospital. Even while she was battling against two types of cancer, she had found a way to share what she loves to do, makeup, with other people. Despite knowing fully the extent of her condition, Talia was known to be very positive and upbeat in her videos.
As her fight against cancer went on, she eventually began uploading video blogs, in addition to make-up tutorials onto her Youtube channel. Through the vblogs, Talia was able to share her story about her cancer to the world. Despite being only a young teen at the time, she was known to be able to speak both openly and maturely about her condition. These videos also served as a way for Talia to personally update her fans about her cancer and her every day life.
While receiving treatment, Talia was invited to be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in September 2012; it was there that she shared her desire to leave behind a legacy for her fans, friends and family. She was also given a surprise at the show by Ellen Degeneres herselfーthat she was going to be an honorary Covergirl! Talia was later featured on the front cover of the Covergirl magazine in October 2012. The Ellen DeGeneres Show had also given her the opportunity to hang out with Canadian star, Justin Bieber, at a radio festival in Las Vegas.
Talia’s Last Moments and Passing
After being diagnosed with leukaemia on top of neuroblastoma, Talia was told by doctors that receiving a bone marrow transplant would be the only possible option left. However, after spending what seemed like endless years enduring painful treatment procedures, all the young girl wanted to do was to spend her last moments free from pain and prodding and in the embrace of her family and friendsーso she ultimately decided against the procedure. She later opted to sign the hospital forms requesting for palliative care after becoming aware that her cancer would be terminal.
The inspiring cancer patient had many things that she wanted to do in lifeーso she made a bucket list. The handwritten list consisted of 76 items and included things such as: surfing, meeting a baby monkey and jumping into a pool of jello. While she wasn’t able to fulfill the whole list, she was able to cross a few items off such as her wish to go swimming with the dolphins at Discovery Cove.
Talia’s last video blog was uploaded onto her Youtube channel about four months prior to her passing. In it, she spoke about both the pain and depression she felt and experienced from her recent anxietyー that it had made her feel not like her normal self. Despite this, the inspiring cancer patient had voiced that she was not afraid of dying, that instead, it was simple “the circle of life.”
“When it’s my turn to go, that will be my turn to go.” – Talia Joy Castellano
On July 16, 2013, Talia Joy Castellano passed away at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Florida, surrounded by her loved ones at the age of 13. After spending most of her childhood undergoing gruelling chemotherapy treatments and surgeries, she had spent the last three months of her life in the palliative care unit. An announcement of the young girl’s death was made on the Angels For Talia Facebook page, at 11:33am.
After the heartfelt message was posted onto Facebook, fans and supporters immediately began to mourn her passing, including celebrity Ellen Degeneres.
Talia Castellano was an inspiring young girl who didn’t let her cancer get the best of her, despite her hardships, she had always made sure to stay positive. A memory from her appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show stands outーwhen she was asked by Ellen “how do you stay so positive?” the 13 year old girl had responded by quoting a famous line from the movie Finding Nemo, “a little fishy once told me, ‘just keep swimming, just keep swimming…'”.
Talia had wanted “to leave her footprints and hand prints” behind on this world, so that she would never be forgottenーone of these last “footprints” were left on the charity for the BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation. Prior to her passing, Talia had helped to raise over $100,000 in her campaign, to build a permanent home for the organization. BASE had stated that they will be making a room filled with makeup in honour of Talia.
After her death, fans of Talia took it upon themselves to get through and fulfill the 13 year old’s lengthy bucket list. Supporters were seen posting photos of things that the teen had hoped to do, along with the hashtag, #taliasbucketlist. Talia’s mother Desiree and sister Mattia have also since set up “Talia’s Legacy Children’s Cancer Foundation”, as a promise to carry out Talia’s wishes. The goal for the non-profit organization is to help raise funds for future research, clinical trials and drugs that are specifically for childhood cancers.
Talia’s relentless positivity inspires both children and adults. The young girl was up against an unforgiving disease but she made the best of it and didn’t let it stop herーshe enjoyed her life to the very end, doing what she loved doing.