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Helping others November 14, 2008

Posted by Amanda Kern in Uncategorized.
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The blood drive for Talia today was a huge success. It seems as though Talia has managed to make an appearance on another three radio stations this morning to help spread the word about the blood drive. This morning I couldn’t help but smile hearing her adorable little voice as she spoke with the guys on 104.1. Her story moved the dj’s and listeners to go out and donate today or in the upcoming week. Talia spoke along side Desire, and Pat Michael’s of Florida’s blood centers – which helped listeners understand the need for donations not just for Talia but for many others. Later in the afternoon I met up at the blood drive with Talia’s family and Pat Michaels at the blood drive.

Mattia, Desiree, Talia, & Pat

Talia spoke with quite a few people at the blood drive. One of the questions the radio dj’s confronted her with this morning was how others reacted to the fact that she’s lost her hair due to chemo. Though she feels as though most people stare at her because she has no hair, she’s found that wearing hats or wigs helps her feel more comfortable. Today she was wearing a super cool black hat at the blood drive, which she only removed this one time.

chatting at the blood drive

Talia was even able to speak with some of the donors while giving blood. She was happy to see how many people were helping out, and was thankful that today she was not the one getting poked.

Talking with those donating

I created business cards to help spread the word about Talia’s web site. During the blood drive Talia was able to give these cards out to donors and people she met.

Angels for Talia cards

giving out the cards

I was impressed with the success of today’s blood drive. It’s amazing how others have stepped up to reach out and help donating blood to help Talia and others in need. In the case of Stacey Dyess of High Tech Institute, she informed Talia that they had a photo of Talia hanging at their school encouraging students to come out to the blood drive to donate.

meeting Talia

I must admit that though I am so moved by how much Talia has gone through, I can’t help but admire the strength of her family. As Desiree mentioned on the radio this morning, cancer affects not just the cancer patient – but the entire family. Her mother, Desiree, has stopped working and has been by Talia’s side these last two years as she’s underwent numerous treatments. She’s endured far more stress than should be shared on this blog, but one thing’s certain – she loves Talia dearly. Capturing this moment of her on the phone definitely sums up just a small fraction of how busy she’s been between her many chats with radio stations, supporting the blood drive, and more.

Desiree on the phone

There’s also Talia’s sister, Mattia, who’s 15 years old. I imagine Talia’s health has been equally tough for Mattia, where so much attention these last two years has been placed on taking care of Talia.


I admired seeing the bond between Mattia & Talia. Talia definitely looks up to her big sister!

Chatting with Mattia

Mattia & Talia

I must admit that I’m thrilled to see that Talia has warmed up to my camera since my first visit with her two weeks ago. She has the most awesome smile.


I admired how she spent time talking to my son today. Before leaving the blood drive today I took this last shot of her as she looked down on my son in his stroller.

Last photo of the day

I’d definitely say that today’s blood drive was a huge success, thanks to Talia, the huge heart of all the donors, and the wonderful staff at Florida’s blood centers. We are fortunate right now that though this blood drive was in support of Talia, she’s been improving so much that she’s not needed donations this last week. I’m not sure if Talia truly realizes it yet, although so many others are stepping up to help her – by her standing up sharing her story she’s also helping so many others who will likely need today’s donations. Stay strong Talia – and know that if the times comes that you need help you have so many others who will step up to help you!


Blood Drive for Talia (and others) November 12, 2008

Posted by Amanda Kern in Uncategorized.
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floridasbloodctrlogoThis Friday, Florida’s Blood Center will be holding a Blood Drive for Talia. I spoke with Desiree this evening, and Talia’s condition has improved. However, it’s still quite important to keep in mind how quickly her condition could change. Through Talia’s recent need for blood & platelet donations, her family has come to realize how important the need for donations are – such as those that have been provided to Talia. Desiree will be speaking on the radio again in the morning to speak with Doc & Grace from K92FM about the need for donations in the area. Because of Talia’s need for platelets and the huge heart of so many who donated, the blood bank’s supply was helped somewhat. However, I’ve come to learn that in Orlando there are constant demands for donations. So I encourage you all to try to make time to come out to the blood drive for Talia or take a trip to your local blood bank.

Here’s the release sent by Florida’s Blood center in regards to the blood drive for Talia:

Florida’s Blood Centers (FBC), the local blood bank, is asking for donations immediately to help 9-year-old Talia Castellano, who has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, neuroblastoma. A special blood drive for Talia will be held at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall Friday, November 14, 2008. Blood donations will help not only Talia’s need for platelet and O negative red blood cell transfusions, but will help our current low blood supply.

WHEN: Friday, November 14, 2008 11:00am-5:00pm

WHERE: Orlando Fashion Square Mall (Inside the West Court near Sears.)

WHO: We need any person who has ever considered giving blood to please contact Florida’s Blood Centers. Cancer patients are in daily need of treatment, burn victims use plasma, trauma victims need red blood transfusions, and routine surgeries depend on the gift of a volunteer donor.  Donors can be as young as 16 and should weigh at least 102 pounds. There is no upper age limit.

Florida’s Blood Center also shared some current facts about donations which may help making the decision to donate a little easier:

  • Florida’s Blood Centers currently needs all blood types, especially Type O Negative.
  • Florida’s Blood Centers currently has a 2-day supply of blood.
  • Every donation is separated into components in our region and will be transfused into a patient usually within 2 to 3 days.
  • Just one donation can save multiple lives, because it’s separated into components– Red Blood Cells, Plasma and Platelets, Clotting Factors and a host of pharmaceuticals.
  • Every three seconds someone is in need of a blood transfusion.
  • Platelet donations are also being encouraged.  Donors should ask about moving into this stage of donating in which platelet donations will impact patients within 5 days.

Now, though this blood drive Friday is certainly in support of Talia, it should be made very clear that donations will not be made just for Talia. In fact, it’s our hopes that her condition is improving enough that she may not need donations as often as she has had the last month. However, there are still so many others out there who could use your help. Hopefully you all are able to donate in the near future.

Download the Release by Florida’s blood center about the upcoming blood drive for Talia.

UPDATE: Desiree just shared the 60 second radio spot of her and Talia along with Pat from Florida’s blood center which will be playing on K92FM, I thought you all might want to take a listen.

Blood Drive for Talia K92fm radio spot

Life, Oh Life… November 6, 2008

Posted by Amanda Kern in Uncategorized.

This past week since I last saw Talia has flown by. I’ve been in touch with Desiree a few times over the last week and I’m impressed with how Talia’s recovery has been going. Last week when I left Talia she seemed so tired and content with being left alone. I don’t blame her for not wanting to open up to a stranger. I had hopes that during my visit this evening that she’d feel a little more comfortable with my company. Luckily having my two kids with me this evening helped her open up a bit more. Over the course of the evening I got to watch the kids play nintendo ds, draw, and enjoy music together.

Before I left her last week, with it being so close to Halloween I asked her what her favorite candy was. Her response: blow pops. So I left the hospital last week promising her that the next time I saw her I’d bring her blow pops. So this evening when I had the opportunity to visit her again, she certainly welcomed the blow pops.

blow pop

Though losing her hair is a constant reminder of her cancer, I thought it was cute seeing Talia this evening sporting two cute bat tattoos on her beautiful bald head.

bat tattoo

Shortly after arriving Desiree brought us back to where Talia’s step father, Larry, was playing the drums. One of the things I learned last week was how much Talia loves music. She loves to sing. She enjoys dancing. Larry began to play the drums to the music while Desiree sang and danced, in hopes that Talia would join in. I admired the love I felt in the room for this beautiful little girl. Though she continues to deal with the day to day moments that come with cancer, she’s so loved by her family. There’s no doubt that they strive to remind her to enjoy all the little moments in life, like singing and dancing tonight.

trying to get Talia to sing

Talia sat on a couch in the room and just watched.

watching Mom sing & dance

It was so awesome to see such huge smiles on her face this evening.

I couldn’t help but smile seeing some of her expressions this evening, like the look on her face at times as she watched her mother sing & dance.

watching her Mom sing & dance

And I must apologize to Desiree, because I know she wasn’t too interested in having her photo taken this evening but these moments were too priceless not to capture. I truly adored watching how much she loves Talia – and how hard she tried to convince her to get up and sing and dance with her.

sorry Desiree...

It was only a matter of time until Talia opened up to singing. When the popular black eyed peas song, “Where is the love?” was played she began to sing along with most of the song.


The last song of the night requested by Desiree was the song “Life” by Melissa Desiree. It’s a special song to both Desiree and Talia. Talia arose to sing and dance with Desiree.

singing Life

Desiree told me what a beautiful song this was, and how touching the lyrics were. After hearing the song I must agree. Desiree, you need not search for the lyrics any longer, I think it’s quite fitting to include them.

Ooh, Yeah
Oh yeah
Oh Life
Oh Life
I’m afraid of the dark
Especially when I’m in the park
When there’s no one else around
Oh I get the shivers
I don’t wanna see a ghost
It’s the sight that I fear most
I’d rather have a piece of toast
Watch the evening news
Life, oh life
Oh life, oh life
Life, oh life
Oh life, oh life
I’m a superstitious girl
I’m the worst in the world
Never walk under ladders
I keep a rabbits’ tail
I’ll take you up on a dare
Anytime, anywhere
Name the place, I’ll be there
Bungee jumping, I don’t care
Life, oh life
Oh life, oh life
Life, oh life
Oh life, oh life
So after all’s said and done
I know I’m not the only one
Life indeed can be fun
If you really want to
Sometimes living out your dreams
Ain’t as easy as it seems
You wanna fly around the world
In a beautiful balloon
Life, oh life
Oh life, oh life
Life, oh life
Oh life, oh life
Life, oh life
Oh life, oh life
Life, oh life
Oh life, oh life
Oh life, oh life..

I truly admired watching the connection between Desiree and Talia this evening.

Desiree & Talia singing

Before the evening ended we took one last picture with the guinea pig she promised she’d show us before we left.

It was reassuring seeing Talia in better spirits this evening. Earlier this week she went in for tests which showed she’s gradually improving. Her platelets were at 66, which is a big improvement from last week. She’ll be returning to the clinic in the morning for more tests. Our fingers are crossed that she’ll continue to stay strong!

Home in time for Halloween November 1, 2008

Posted by Amanda Kern in Uncategorized.
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Though I have no photos to share this time, I did receive word this morning that Talia made it home last night from the hospital. Talia really enjoys halloween and wanted to be home in time to go out trick or treating. She told me that just like my own daughter, she too wanted to be a vampire this year. When I visited Thursday they weren’t so sure she’s be let out of the hospital before Halloween. It broke my heart to think that this little girl wouldn’t be able to enjoy one of the most exciting holidays of the year. So Desiree’s phone call this morning was quite reassuring, knowing the Talia made it home in time for Halloween. Though she arrived home pretty late, a few neighbors were there so she too could go trick or treating.

Desiree and Talia also spoke this morning on the Best Life Barb show on the radio and helped spread the word about Talia’s condition as well as the need for blood and platelet donations. We’re quite thankful that they agreed to help get the word out to help Talia, but through the process of trying to get donations for Talia we’ve learned that there’s a shortage of blood, especially for her blood type (O negative). We’ve come to learn that only 7% of the population is O negative. So if you have the opportunity to donate blood you might not just help Talia but you may help many others in the process as well.

I have no doubt that Talia and her family are glad to have her home after being in the hospital for over three weeks. Though Talia is home, she’s still recovering and they’ll continue to take things one day at a time – not knowing what each day holds. I look forward to spending some time with Talia soon – away from the hospital.