INDIANAPOLIS – Bella Rodriguez-Torres was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the tender age of four. Across a roller coaster six-year battle with the disease, the South Florida girl captured hearts around the world with her strength and spirit, developing a huge following on social media and a website and book ("Why Not Me") written by her father, Raymond.
On Tuesday, Rodriguez-Torres succumbed to the disease, dying far too soon at the age of 10.
In her short life, she made a major impact on others, including Miami Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The two paid tribute to Rodriguez-Torres by writing #LiveLikeBella on the sneakers they wore for Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers.
The Heat lost the game, 99-92, but a reminder of a brave little girl's courage was broadcast nationally.
"[Dwyane] came to me with the story today, it was a no-brainer," James said. "It's sad. It puts everything in perspective. At the end of the day, this game is just basketball. Two great teams, we're competing. But it's just basketball.
"You have a little girl, or any kid that loses her life over an illness," James continued. "It's very sad. It's very sad … what happened to Bella puts everything in perspective."
Rodriguez-Torres suffered from Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, which at one point left her paralyzed only to see her fight back and walk again. She had a final setback this spring and spent the last couple weeks in hospice care.
"Bella didn't lose her battle with cancer but instead won the reward of an eternal life," her mother Shannah told Miami's CBS4-TV on Tuesday.
Through active social media accounts, she was closely followed all over the globe, with more than 55,000 Facebook friends and a major presence on Twitter, where her #LiveLikeBella hashtag was trending on Tuesday.
For James and Wade, using their platform to trying to spread that message was the least they could do.
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