Stella Usiak, the beautiful & fearless teen who captured the hearts of so many of us, has died

January 10, 2021

Written By

Mary Friona Celani

This is tough.

It’s a tough blog to write because there are just no words. There are no words to express the grief and heartbreak so many are feeling right now. Stella is gone.

I can’t begin to imagine what her parents, Jen and Jeff are feeling or how much Nigel is missing his sister.


It’s been a long road for Stella who has been fighting cancer for TEN years.

I first met Stella when she was just five or six years old.  She was a product tester for me when I worked at Channel 2.  We tested a cupcake holder. We had a riot, baking cupcakes and hanging out.

She was such a cutie – there was something very special about her. I knew it then.



One day, maybe a year or so later, I got an email from Stella’s mom, Jen. Stella wanted to do another product test. She told me Stella had Leukemia and wanted some sort of little radio thing that she could use when she was getting chemotherapy.  I was floored.  That sweet little girl had cancer. Of course I went and did the product test and of course I grew to love  that kid even more.




I spent some time with her,  and over the years did many stories with her. She was a warrior. We did product tests, stories on blood drives, stories on how her friends & classmates rallied around her, a story about her bedroom makeover by Special Spaces – and of course, stories on how she wanted to meet her idol, Taylor Swift – and she did. She wanted to meet her for years – she never gave up – she was so determined. That meeting meant a lot to sweet Stella.




What amazed me most was how Stella was always doing things for other children.  She made bracelets and other goodies out of duct tape and sold them to raise money for charity.  She has held quite a few blood drives. She’s been the face of childhood cancer in Western New York for nearly a decade. She was recognized wherever she went.  She’s brought awareness to the monster of a disease.  I’ve never met a little girl who cared so much about other kids. Stella had a heart of gold.

She was sick for more than half of her life. Can you imagine!? Her little body has gone through more than we can even imagine. Just think about that – MORE THAN HALF OF HER LIFE.






She’s gone through it all with grace and courage. She’s walked with her head held high. She loved school and learning, and always hated when she had to miss class. Things got to her over the years – she would be devastated when forced to miss school dances or other activities due to her illness.  In what always seemed so cruel – things would come up and Stella would be knocked down – again and again. Like the time she was going to a Taylor Swift concert in Toronto and broke her leg at the hotel just before the show. Mere hours before a concert she’d been waiting so long to see.  You may think, it’s only a concert – but it was much more for Stella. It was a sense of normalcy for a brief moment. It was the culmination of something she’d focused on and looked forward to. Through it all, she just kept on going. She just kept swimming.

She loved music, arts & crafts, learning new things – but most of all she loved her family – including her dog, Lucy and cat, Chloe.


So I sit here and think about how unfair it is. For Stella. For her brother, Nigel.  For her parents.  This can be a cruel world.




Stella did everything she was supposed to. She followed the rules. Rested when she was told to, went through treatment after treatment after treatment. Bone marrow transplant. Chemotherapy. She was supposed to be enjoying her childhood and then her teen years – but she was robbed of so much joy.

Why can’t we figure out better treatments, or a cure?

Stella didn’t deserve this. No child does.

Stella Louise Usiak was just 17 years old.

I just know Stella is singing away in Heaven – singing with the angels.

I will pray for her wonderful parents and brother – and all those who love Stella. I hope you will, too. Let Stella’s life serve as a beacon of light for all of us to remember what is most important in life, to remember how fragile life is – how short life can be – and how love and family are what matter most.

Stella, you will be missed. Rest In Peace sweet girl.



About Me

Welcome to Totally Buffalo! My name is Mary Friona-Celani and I am the creator of this site! After spending 20 years in the Buffalo media, I moved on to focus on my beautiful family. Now, the time has come for a new project. I was ready for something new. Something mine.
I am born and raised in WNY and my pride runs deep. My husband, Scott and I are very happy to be raising our four daughters here.






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