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For 12-year-old cancer patient, a 'wig' to reflect her inner beauty

For 12-year-old cancer patient, a 'wig' to reflect her inner beauty

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SALT LAKE CITY — The world is full of beautiful people.

No one knows that better than Talia Joy Castellano. The 12-year-old has a rare combination of cancers and may not have long to live, but she is using the time she has left to share with the world a message: inner beauty exists in everyone, and outer beauty should be used to reflect it, not mask it.

Talia was diagnosed in 2007 with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. Now, she is dealing with preleukemia: the start of leukemia in her bone marrow. She said when she was diagnosed, she wasn't worried about dying. She was worried about getting skinny and losing her hair.

She did lose her hair, but in the process, she recognized her inner beauty, and found a way to broadcast it to the world. The 12-year-old's YouTube page is bursting with makeup tutorials, regularly accessed by the girl's nearly 128,000 subscribers.

Her makeup isn't a mask. It isn't meant to hide the pain or uncertainty of a disease that takes too many, too young. For Talia, it is a source of strength.

Having cancer has been a gift, yet a horrible, horrible, terrifying thing.

–Talia Castellano

"Having cancer has been a gift, yet a horrible, horrible, terrifying thing," she said. "But I've gotten so many benefits from it and so many cons from it."

"Having a YouTube channel, having to inspire people and having people look up to me, and explaining to you guys how I adore and love makeup — using it as my wig and having so much self confidence to go out to the grocery store without a wig — it's amazing."

For others, the makeup is a witness to the young girl's inner beauty.

"You're such an inspiration to many; you're so beautiful inside and out, and never let anyone tell you different," one commenter wrote.

She is beautiful inside and out — that is the prevailing theme of comments surrounding Talia's work. She said she plans to make YouTube videos for as long as she is able, but if she chooses to forego treatment, which is where she is leaning, that could be in as few as four months.

"I know it's kind of a lot to take in, but right now where I'm leaning to is not doing it, because I really just don't want to go through that," she said. And later, "If you're younger than 12, I don't know if you would comprehend what I'm saying."

Most people far older than she cannot comprehend her experience. She turns 13 on Aug. 18, but her soul is old. She seems to have an understanding of what is important in a way that only those who may soon leave this world are able to manage.

"(Not doing treatment) wasn't really something to think about for me," she said. "It's just, this isn't fair to me anymore. I'm only 13; I shouldn't be having to do this. No one should have to do this. The journey of cancer was amazing, but every journey has an end."

At her journey's end, she wants to be remembered. And that is where YouTube came into play.

"I'm gonna continue doing videos for as long as I can," she said. "I just wanted you guys to know that because I really, really want the whole world to know what's going on with me."

She may have her chance: an Internet campaign has started to ask Ellen DeGeneres to allow Talia to do her makeup for a show.

A high compliment from a girl whose story has inspired so many to find their own beauty — their own wig.

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Stephanie Grimes


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