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Daughter of Goose Creek natives becoming national face for Childhood Cancer Awareness

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Taylor Filorimo Taylor Filorimo
Taylor with her mom and aunt Taylor with her mom and aunt
Taylor's mom, Maria, receiving support from friends at the Goose Creek memorial Taylor's mom, Maria, receiving support from friends at the Goose Creek memorial
"Live 4 Tay" to remember Taylor "Live 4 Tay" to remember Taylor
Family friends painted the Folly boat for Taylor (Courtesy: Michele Bencos-Wise) Family friends painted the Folly boat for Taylor (Courtesy: Michele Bencos-Wise)

By Mike Wadsworth
mwadsworth@abcnews4.com

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCIV) - A Goose Creek couple lost the most inspirational person they ever knew. She was a daughter, a friend and she quickly gained national attention as the face for Childhood Cancer Awareness.

Taylor Filorimo passed away September 5 at the age of 16, from a form of kidney cancer known as renal cell carcinoma.  The cancer is most common in adults, ages 50 to 70. Taylor was diagnosed at just 13-years-old.  The cancer progressed to metastatic renal cell carcinoma papillary type 2.  She was the youngest known person with this type.

Taylor lived by the words, "I will not let the fear of cancer strike me out," and led a three-year journey of ups and downs that captured the hearts of thousands of people.

It started at the end of July 2009. Taylor was in Illinois for a National Softball tournament when she became very ill.  A trip to the hospital revealed a tumor the size of "two softballs" in her right kidney that was spreading to her organs. 

"She never showed fear," said Taylor's mother Maria Coleman Filorimo. "We lived by, 'I can't control the cancer, but I can control the journey.'"

And that's where it started.

Maria said it was Taylor's passion from day one to raise awareness of childhood cancer and it was a goal she pursued with fearless ambition.

"My father-in-law had cancer too. They had surgery two weeks apart," said Maria. "He didn't want to do the chemo and Taylor said to him, 'Do it.' He's in remission today," said Maria.

Taylor spent two years at the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C. and her story started to spread.

Taylor's Facebook page quickly gained support under the title "Pray-4-Tay."  Taylor and Maria posted updates on Taylor's condition nearly every day. You can see the page with over 13,000 'likes' here.

"Taylor cared about everybody," said her aunt, Teresa Coleman Green. "It wasn't just for her, it was for everybody."

"She always told me it's not about me, it's about the children," said Maria.

The family created a "Caring Bridge" page to share her story and gather donations to help pay for medical costs.  The page has nearly a quarter million views today.  You can view the page here.

The support was growing, but the prognosis took a turn for the worst in February of 2012.  The cancer had spread and Taylor had 25 tumors in her lungs.  The news sent Taylor to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in her hometown of Nashville, TN.

"She would get in the car and put that hat on," Maria said of Taylor losing her hair during treatment. "As soon as she got out, she would throw that hat right back on the seat of the car."

Taylor had terminal cancer and she knew it. But her friends and family say she took on everyday with a smile. With her medical condition decreasing, the support started rising to new heights.

"Taylor always said she wanted a song," said Maria. "She got it."

Tanja Rose and Nile Peyette wrote a song for Taylor called, "She's a hero."

"She wears a smile and hides her pain, an inspiration to everyone she knows, and even though she shouldn't have to be, she's a hero," sings the chorus. 

You can see a picture montage to go along with the song here.

The number one item on Taylor's Bucket List was to meet Luke Bryan.  The country music star paid a visit to Taylor's home in Nashville just a month before she passed away to spend time with Taylor.

The Facebook post by Taylor's family about the day read: To see Tay smile the way she did. I can not even put that into words. I want to thank everyone involved. It was a VERY special moment for Tay. What special souls they are and that is BEING "AWARE TO CARE" "PRAY 4 TAY"

Taylor teamed up with the beauty brand FHI Heat to raise money for Child Cancer by selling hair products.  The campaign reached around the world.  You can read more about the campaign here.

More celebrities heard Taylor's story and got involved with her cause. Taylor's goal was materializing.

Honored to have @taylorfilorimo design a shoe w/me for @shoedazzle for a good cause..let's find a cure for #kidneyCancer #pray4tay - read a tweet from actress Denise Richards.  A shoe designed by the duo will have "Pray for Tay" imprinted on the side. 

Taylor's favorite color's were lime green and black.  A group that supports the families of children with cancer, Clinton's Club, started a nail polish product line with each color named for a child. 

You can see the "Color's of Hope" here.  You can't miss the "Pray 4 Tay" lime green color.

"A few days before she died she said to me, 'I wanna' be big someday.'  She's on her way," said Taylor's aunt, Teresa.

In the final two months before her death, Maria said Taylor's condition significantly declined.  The family decided it was time to stop treatment.

"It came down to her quality of life," said Maria. "We decided to stop."

On Tuesday September 4, Taylor was rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  The online support was tremendous. That Tuesday was the same night Michele Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

The hastag #Pray4Tay was trending more than Michele Obama at times during her speech.

"To know that your daughter was trending and there was that much support," said Maria. "She is my hero."

Taylor passed away the next day, Tuesday September 5, 2012.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and Taylor's death came just five days in - you could say it was her calling or a symbol of her dedication to raise awareness for the kids.

"Taylor was an old soul. We always knew she would do something special, but we never knew it would be through cancer," said Maria.

Funeral services were held in Taylor's hometown of Nashville, but friends of Maria and Teresa from Goose Creek wanted to hold a memorial service to show support in their hometown.

They all raised money to arrange flights for Maria and Teresa, and the service was held at Metro North Church last Friday, September 14. 

"Taylor didn't grow up here, but this is where we came for vacation," said Maria. "She loved Charleston."

A friend of the family, Michele Bencos-Wise, spent the entire day Friday with her husband painting the Folly Beach boat for Taylor and Childhood Cancer Awareness.  This was the second time the Folly boat was painted for Taylor, and Maria said Taylor absolutely loved it the first time they painted it. She even made it her cover photo on Facebook.

Nearly 200 people came to the service at Metro North, most of whom never met Taylor, but were inspired by her story.

Friends and family now sport shirts with the slogan, "Live 4 Tay," to continue Taylor's legacy.

"If anyone can walk away knowing September is Child Cancer month," said Maria. "That's what she would want."

Taylor Filorimo couldn't control the cancer in her body, but she sure controlled the journey along the way. 

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