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Cassie Nascimento: "Cancer is a battle you can't fight alone"

If ever there was a teenager with a zest for life, it was Cassie Nascimento.

And though the bubbly teen lost her battle with cancer in November last year, the legacy she left behind her is truly remarkable. 

One of those legacies is her beautiful friendship with fellow cancer patient, Jason Carrasco. The pair fought for their lives together, on-and-off over three years during a time when they should have been enjoying the end of high school.

In tonight’s episode of Sunday Night, journalist and cancer survivor, Sally Obermeder told Cassie and Jason’s heartbreaking story.

Last year, just after her final diagnosis, Cassie wrote for Mamamia.

This is her story, in her own words.

My name’s Cass Nascimento. I’m 19 years old and have been struggling with brain cancer for the past three years. I was first diagnosed when I was 16. I had been having crippling headaches, nausea, double vision, and I had gone to the hospital with a letter from the doctor to have an emergency MRI. When I got there, the doctor told me I was just a teenager who was just stressed with exams and was sent home with strong pain relief, but my parents weren’t satisfied with this outcome. They organised private MRI days later, by this time I could barely walk. We took my scan to a neurosurgeon, who told me I had a very rare pineal brain tumour. He immediately sent me to hospital, where I had an emergency surgery that night to relieve the pressure. So you can imagine that all of this came as a shock to both me and my family. Everything just happened so quickly.

Following this emergency surgery, I spent a week in the hospital with a tube in my brain draining the fluid before the neurosurgeon was available to perform further surgery to remove the tumour.

Six weeks after my first surgery, I then had intense radiation to my brain and spine followed by five months of intensive chemotherapy. During this time, I had no support from any other patient who was going through similar situations, I felt like I was the only young person going through this disease. I felt very alone.

This changed a few months after my treatment, when I was just getting back on my feet. I got a call from a close friend who was crying about this guy we knew, Jason. He was 19 at the time and had just been diagnosed with testicular cancer. She had told him about me and he wanted to see me.

Cassie and Jason.

First, I was confused at why Jason would ask for me, then I felt honoured. I felt like in his time of need he thought I could make him feel better, because I understood what it was like to be a young person with cancer. So I put on a brave face and went straight to the hospital. I told him that chemo was easy. That was a lie, a white lie, but I felt like he needed to hear something that wasn’t so negative.

Throughout Jason’s chemo we became really close. I was there for him and he would confide his fears in me. In return, he has been there for me through every mood-swing and every tear. Although what we went through isn’t something you would wish on your worst enemy, I’m glad that I had him by my side, he has become my best friend, who is like my brother.

In August 2011, Jason was cleared of his cancer. Then, after helping Jason through his battle, I unfortunately relapsed. The tumour had come back a second time and so my amazing neurosurgeon operated again. But it wasn’t over. My parents and I then flew to America after that for a trial treatment, but two months after getting back from the States, sadly, the cancer came back and I had a third operation to remove the tumour. Then, I tried a brand new treatment called Oncothermia. So, I am continuing to fight this cancer for a third time and am currently having more chemotherapy.

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Most of my late teens have been spent either in a hospital bed or in an MRI machine or an operating theatre. It would have been so much easier if I had been in a You Can ward, around other young people who understood.

After fighting cancer for three years, I’m determined not to let this define me as a person. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and now I believe everything has happened to me for a reason. No, I’m not going to be a doctor or a nurse but maybe I can use the things I know to help others going through similar situations, and ensure teens facing cancer will have the support I was missing in the beginning.

CASS NASCIMENTO
Image via Sony Foundation.

After being there for Jason when he had cancer and now with him being there for me during my treatments, I have realised how important it is for young people to help each other. This is a battle you can’t fight alone.

This is why I’m so excited about the new You Can Centre which will soon be built in Sydney. This will mean no other young person will have to feel alone on the fearful journey of having cancer, which is so important to me. This gives me hope.

I know that my cancer could come back at any time but I also know I’m strong and I know how much difference the power of positivity can make. I’m so thankful to Sony Foundation for realising there are so many young people with cancer and that we do need to support each other. And thank you to everyone here tonight for believing in the importance of youth cancer care.

Sony Foundation Australia is the charitable arm of the Sony Group of Companies in Australia. Its aim is to capitalise on the unique qualities of Sony and contribute to the advancement of the Australian community by assisting its youth and fostering their talents. Through its fundraising and activities, Sony Foundation is affirming the global unifying brand message that drives Sony: believe that anything you can imagine, you can make real. Since 1998, Sony Foundation has raised more than $17 million for youth-related causes. Wharf4ward taking place on Thursday 24th October.

You Can is a national youth cancer campaign started in partnership with CanTeen. On behalf of young people living with cancer, the long-term aim of ‘You Can’ is to fund the establishment of youth cancer centres throughout the country. These centres will address the lack of improvement in cancer survival rates by providing a focus for medical collaboration amongst medical professionals, facilitating the development of clinical trials, encouraging specialist training and allowing for the delivery of a psychosocial support service equipped to deal with the issues specific to this age group.

 

You Can Walk 4 Cass is a 5km fundraising walk to be held in memory of Kanahooka local, Cass Nascimento, who lost her battle with brain cancer in November, 2013.

Cass was an ambassador for Sony Foundation’s youth cancer program, You Can, and worked passionately with Sony Foundation to raise awareness of youth cancer and the need to establish specialised youth cancer centres and services. You Can is based on the power of human connection, and is ensuring young people don’t have to fight their battle alone.

The walk will take place in Wollongong on Sunday, November 9, 2014 and we are encouraging everyone to get involved, do the walk and raise funds for Sony Foundation’s You Can Program.

Following the walk, Sony Foundation, together with the Wollongong community, will be throwing a finish line celebration, featuring celebrity hosts, special performances, local DJs, food stalls and more. Please join us for the morning, into the early afternoon, as we remember the beautiful Cass Nascimento and raise funds for You Can.

To find out more, call 1800 YOU CAN.