How one little girl helped change the world

May 14, 2019

Dr. Tim Williams welcomed Raymond Rodriguez-Torres to SFPTI on May 10 as part of the center’s monthly lecture series. Mr. Rodriguez-Torres spoke to the SFPTI staff about the Live Like Bella Foundation, which he founded along with his wife, Shannah, in 2013 in memory of their daughter, Bella, who lost her life to cancer at age 10.

Mr. Rodriguez-Torres recounted the story of his daughter’s journey, from the time she was diagnosed with Stage Four Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma in 2007 at age 4, rendering her paralyzed from the abdomen down, and told she would have only weeks to live. Although doctors said they could provide chemotherapy treatments if the family desired, the recommended plan was Hospice care.

The Rodriguez-Torres family opted for chemotherapy while also pursuing other options. They found a proton therapy center in Jacksonville, and Bella began receiving treatments. She never suffered any side effects and was eventually able to resume walking and running — something that was originally called an impossibility.

The Rodriguez-Torres family are Miami natives, and Bella’s story began gaining traction in South Florida. It soon spread throughout the world and a movement was formed. Although Bella succumbed to the disease in May 2013, the little girl who was given only weeks to live survived six years, and had a greatly improved quality of life. What was once considered a hopeless case became a true tale of inspiration.

“Hearing that your child has cancer is difficult,” said Raymond. “But hearing there’s nothing we can do is worse.”

Mr. Rodriguez-Torres stated that Bella’s ultimate concern was to serve others, which is what motivated the family to start the Live Like Bella Foundation. The foundation is designed to raise awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research. At the time of its inception, only 4% of federal funding for cancer research went toward pediatric care. The family is confident that is changing and has been to Washington, D.C. and the White House several times in recent months to discuss additional opportunities.

Dr. Tim Williams (left), Medical Director of SFPTI, and Raymond Rodriguez-Torres, a proud father and co-founder of the Live Like Bella Foundation

“When something like this happens, you wonder why, but people like Bella show us how to live,” he said. “Bella never complained. She lived her life to the fullest and always cared about other children and wanted to help them.”

The Live Like Bella Foundation is now involved in 47 states and 19 different countries. It has raised more than $10 million for cancer research and has helped pass two pieces of federal legislation.

While the Rodriguez-Torres family is committed to honoring their daughter and her legacy, they also want to raise awareness for the tremendous importance of proton radiation therapy.

“It is a privilege to be at SFPTI,” said Raymond. “This is a beautiful facility, and my family is so grateful and thankful for the cutting-edge technology and treatment that you offer. The work you’re doing here and the hope it inspires is remarkable.”

Dr. Williams pledged his cancer center’s full support and assured Mr. Rodriguez-Torres that SFPTI is and will forever remain a proud partner of the Live Like Bella Foundation.

Before leaving, Mr. Rodriguez-Torres addressed the SFPTI staff one last time.

“Sometimes it seems like no one cares, but SFPTI proves that people really do care. Help is coming,” he said. “What you do is not a job or a paycheck. It is a calling, and it is not an accident that you are here.”

For more information about the Live Like Bella Foundation, go to or call 786.505.3914. You can also email