Friends remember Stella Usiak, 17-year-old who battled leukemia

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(WIVB) – A young woman who made a massive impact on many across Western New York passed away over the weekend.

Stella Usiak, 17, had fought leukemia twice over the past decade.

Also during that time, she excelled at North Tonawanda High School, earning her New York State High Regents Diploma and winning awards for her creative writing talents. She also helped many people around her with her smile and positivity.

“Literally anything that went wrong, she would say something sarcastic about it or she’d just brush it off like ‘oh yeah, it happens all the time’,” said Usiak’s friend Brittany Carey.

Carey has inoperable cancer that grows off of her spine. She says she’s found it hard to find any positivity after that diagnosis- but meeting Usiak changed her life.

“I was miserable,” Carey said. “Watching her be like that, not just the very first time, but every time, it was life-changing for me.”

Kayla Iadresin says she met Usiak when she relapsed with cancer.

“She was going through the same thing I was because she relapsed and I relapsed, we both needed a bone marrow transplant,” Iadresin said. “We were going through very similar journeys- just seeing her going through it with such high spirits, it made me feel like I had the strength and seeing her being able to do it.”

The girls are all part of a group called Kaely’s Kindness. Kaely Kwitek co-founded the non-profit. It brings young women who are fighting cancer together to provide emotional and social support.

Everyone in the group will tell you that Usiak was their star.

“She was the type that everyone loved her,” Kwitek said. “She would never go into a room and make anyone feel uncomfortable, she welcomed everyone with open arms. She was just a light full of energy. It’s very sad she is no longer with us.”

They found out over the weekend that Usiak had passed at Oishei Children’s Hospital.

“It’s going to be a really big impact because when you spend all of your time with someone like that, someone who is so inspiring and bright — Stella literally means star and that’s what she was for all of us,” Carey said. “There’s going to be … it’s a little bit darker than it was before.”

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