Talia Joy Castellano, a cancer patient who became internet-famous for beauty tutorial videos on YouTube that captured radiant enthusiasm for sharing and sober awareness of her disease, died Tuesday. She was 13 years old.
A statement from the Florida teen's's representative says she died "peacefully with her family by her side."
In the last first-person video blog she published, in late May, she spoke of anxiety and depression that accompanied the palliative treatment she was receiving to stabilize pain. Drugs, radiation, and other therapies were helping her body, but taking a heavy toll on her spirit.
"It's adding up," she said. "I can't really explain it, and I don't want to explain it, because I don't want to make it sound like something it's not. But basically, I've just been not Talia. Really down, and very anxious and moody."
"I'm not planning anything. I'd rather be in the hospital, comfortable, with my pain under control, than be at home in pain and uncomfortable," she said. "I feel safer here right now, and I think my anxiety is telling me I should stay right now."
This cancer patient, who is much older but no wiser, can empathize.
She was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at age of 7 in 2007, underwent treatment, and had no evidence of disease for 13 months. Her cancer returned in September, 2008, and was treated again. After two more years of no progression, the disease returned in mid-2010 and relapsed again in mid-2011, according to her Facebook page. In the later stage of her disease, she was also diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS, previously also referred to as preleukemia), a secondary form of cancer.
For many cancer patients like young Talia, life is a patchwork of in treatment, out of treatment, and waiting and hoping for more time.
Most of the teen's viral videos focused on the fun and the pretty--clever tips on make-up styling--but others spoke to the cyclical uncertainty that both kids and adults with the disease experience.
Her Facebook page today is full of tributes: a testament to the number of fans around the world who loved her work, and her ebullient personality.
Talia achieved the highest mark of internet fame: memehood. Hundreds of thousands of people subscribed to her YouTube makeup tutorials, and "liked" her Facebook posts. Cover Girl made her an honorary "covergirl;" she appeared in a People Magazine ad; was interviewed on The Ellen Show. She produced a namesake clothing line. She was featured in a documentary advocating for more childhood cancer research. She was also a spokes-kid for Base Camp Children's Cancer Foundation, which has launched a new project in her memory.
Today, her family writes:
Godspeed little one, may you be free from pain and suffering, may your soul feel the light and love that you brought to so many of us on this Earth during the short time you were her with us. We will miss you more than you will ever know baby girl.
May science one day help us understand how to prevent lives like hers from ending so soon.
(HT: Suleika Jaouad)