Bella Rodriguez-Torres, 2002-2013

Bella Rodriguez-Torres, 10 year old, succumbs to cancer

For more than half of her short life, Bella Rodriguez-Torres fought a vicious cancer that doctors thought would kill her before she reached first grade.

But Bella, born Dec. 12, 2002, outlived Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma until Tuesday, when she died at home in Miami in hospice care. She was 10, an inspiration to thousands of supporters who followed her on social media.

Among her fans: Miami Heat stars Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, who inked the Twitter hashtag #LiveLikeBella on their shoes for Tuesday night’s game.

Bella lived with parents Raymonda and Shannah Rodriguez-Torres, sister Rayna, 8, five dogs, two birds and two rabbits.

Ralph Rodriguez-Torres of Parkland, her uncle and Godfather, said Bella captured the public’s heart because “she was defying the odds time and time again.’’

Not only did she fight an aggressive cancer, but coped with development delays stemming from oxygen deprivation at birth that required special therapies.

“She was defiant,’’ her uncle said, “and she did it all without complaining.’’

Sister Rayna “loved and protected Bella,’’ he said. “She could clearly understand her delays and she cared for her.’’

Bella’s bio on, a fundraising site, says Bella “loves to play with Play-Doh, Legos and loves everything with Sponge Bob Square Pants, Justin Bieber and Disney. She loves music and watching DVDs. She loves to fish in the lake with her daddy.’’

Without warning, on July 17, 2007, Bella became paralyzed. Doctors found a spinal tumor and diagnosed Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer.

After 54 weeks of chemotherapy and 16 weeks of radiation to seven tumor sites, something happened that her parents called a miracle: Bella went into remission. She could walk again, and life returned to something like normal.

Until April 2009, when doctors found a brain tumor, which they hit with radiation, chemo and an antibody treatment.

There followed a litany of recurrences and metastases.

Sept. 28, 2011: tumor, right ovary. Removed, and area radiated.

Jan. 12, 2012: three new tumors, abdomen. More chemo and an antibody treatment.

August 2012: four more tumors, pelvis. More chemo.

January 2013: tumors found to have grown during chemo; 16-hour surgery in Houston to remove tumors, uterus, ovaries. Abdomen “washed’’ in hot chemo.

“I am still recovering from the side effects and issues of the surgery. Please pray for me as I undergo my treatment and receive God’s full healing. Love, Bella,’’ she wrote on the website.

Because of his daughter’s condition — and her spirit — dad Ray Rodriguez-Torres, healthcare executive and lapsed Catholic, returned to the church.

He also wrote an inspirational book: Why Not Me? A True Story About a Miracle in Miami (Westbow Press), donating all profits to pediatric cancer research.

In addition to her parents and sister, Bella is survived by grandparents Dr. Ramon and GulyRodriguez-Torres, Myles Hornreich and Amparo Mejia, all of South Florida.

A viewing will be held 5-11 p.m. Thursday at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn Funeral Home, 11655 SW 117th Ave., Kendall. Mass of Resurrection will begin at 1 p.m. Friday at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 12125 SW 107th Ave.

In lieu of flower, the family suggests donations in Bella’s memory to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds research on childhood cancers. For more information, visit

On June 4, members of the Miami Police Department will shave their heads to honor Bella before kicking off a Miami-to-Key West bicycle ride the next day, to raise money for St. Baldrick’s.

Read more Top Stories stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category