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.
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.