December 12th 2002- May 28th 2013
Bella Rodriguez-Torres is the oldest daughter of Shannah and Raymond. Despite having developmental delays from low oxygen at birth, she was a healthy and happy four year old when, in July 2007, she became paralyzed overnight. The cause of the paralysis was a large tumor in her spine with seven other tumors throughout her body. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive childhood cancer. Her prognosis was dire. Medical experts across the globe agreed that Bella had but a few months to live and would never walk again. The author of life, however, had a different plan. With intense treatments and prayers from all around the world, she miraculously regained the ability to walk, run and jump and went into remission when it was never thought possible. Bella courageously fought cancer six times until her death on May 28, 2013. Her big brown eyes, infectious smile, determination and innocence touched thousands across the globe. Her miraculous and inspiring life was documented in the bestselling book titled Why Not Me? (Westbow Press 2010) written by her father. Bella never feared, she never complained and always cared more for others than she did for herself. In 2012 she inspired “Bella’s Band-aid Drive.” Bella wanted children to have fun band-aids instead of “boring” brown band-aids. Per Bella’s request, Shannah put out the plea on Bella’s website and on Facebook. The family received thousands of band-aids from around the world and donated them to Miami Children’s Hospital.
In early 2012 while Bella was undergoing a radical surgical procedure at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, Shannah, made an important post on Facebook that would go viral. As Bella laid in her bed in intensive care on a ventilator, Shannah challenged everyone to “ Live Like Bella®.” She challenged “Bella’s Believers” to go out and enjoy life! Since Bella could not leave the hospital, she encouraged others to appreciate each moment and live as Bella would.
The phrase #LiveLikeBella “went viral.” It was seen on buildings, overpasses, homes, cars and even government buildings. #LiveLikeBella circulated the globe with tweets, media posts, tags, and mentions.
Miami Heat fans who were mourning Bella’s death asked LeBron James to write Live Like Bella® on his shoes. LeBron and Dwayne Wade ended up granting Bella’s dying wish as both players wrote Live Like Bella® on their shoes during the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. "Dwyane came up to me with the story today and it was a no brainer for me," James said. "It's sad. It puts everything in perspective. At the end of the day this game is just basketball.” James said at the podium during a post-game interview. “The little girl that passed away, Live Like Bella®, that we had on our shoes. A little girl that passed away here in South Florida. That just once again puts the game of basketball and life in perspective.” The Miami Marlins™ also honored Bella by making a #LiveLikeBella jersey and hanging it in the dugout during a game versus the Tampa Bay Rays™.
Bella was also named “Honorary Chief” of the City of Miami Police. Bella’s viewing, funeral and burial were attended by thousands. Over 200 police officers and first responders attended her funeral Mass. Since Bella's passing, Miami Dade County named a section of SW 107 Ave "Live Like Bella Way" and a public park "Live Like Bella Park" in Leisure city. Additionally, both Miami Dade County and the City of Miami passed resolutions urging congress to enact the "Bella Bill", a law that would provide a platform to accelerate innovation for childhood cancer research. Bella had unwavering faith, a loving heart and a great sense of compassion for others. Her life and legacy, to care and serve others, lives on with the work of the Live Like Bella® Childhood Cancer foundation. Our Purpose: End childhood cancer.