"When I was 19, I was cleared of cancer." What happened the next day was devastating.

Cassie and Jason

This post has been written by Jason Carrasco, about his friend who passed away last year, Cassie Nascimento

I was in my final year of school when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 18. I was confused and scared and had to have months of gruelling chemotherapy and two operations to cut out the cancer.

The initial diagnosis was overwhelming but finally became bearable when I was introduced to Cass Nascimento, who was the same age as me. She was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour when she was 16. Before I was diagnosed she had been through three brain operations and had strongest chemotherapy and radiation available. Despite her own battles, Cass was always, and always will be, a source of strength for me.

Cass and I fought cancer together – on and off – for three years. She was the only one who knew what I was going through, and I could understand how she was feeling too.

When I was 19, I was cleared of cancer. In a cruel twist of fate, the very next day Cass found out her brain tumours had come back. Throughout our friendship, there wasn’t a time when one of us wasn’t sick but that just meant that one of us was always there to support the other, no matter what.

Sadly, Cass lost her battle with cancer in November last year.

Cass was so passionate about Sony Foundation and the need for You Can centres to connect thousands of young Aussies in need of support. I am just one of many people Cass helped and continues to inspire. Everyone needs a Cass. Everyone needs a buddy to show you that the light at the end of the tunnel does exist and everything is going to be alright when you’re going through chemo.

Through it all, I’ve realised that anyone going through illness or adversity are often told we are strong. But personally I didn’t find this strength on my own. It was the quality that grew from my support network and my friendship with Cass. It was that text message asking how I was; it was those countless hours she spent with me holding my hand reassuring that this too would pass. Through Sony Foundation’s You Can program, hundreds of young Australian will have the opportunity to develop friendship like Cass and I. To help other young adults believe that this is not just their fight, but ours.

I believe nobody can go back into the past and start a new beginning, but everybody can start today and make a new ending. Cass sadly lost her battle but has already touched so many people’s lives and given them hope. The friendship Cass has created through her smile, her visits to hospital, her beautiful words and silent strength, are endless. The people she has helped will go on to help others.

Cass’ mum Gloria, who was such a source of strength for Cass and I and other young people with cancer in the hospital, is continuing to grow Cass’ legacy. Gloria has been awarded NSW Mum Of The Year after I nominated her and she deserves all the recognition she can get. She is an incredible mum.

With my battle over, now I just want all young people to have the chance to be that Cass for someone. To save other people lives, just like Cass saved mine.

About You Can: Sony Foundation’s youth cancer program, You Can, was established in 2010 to address the gap in care that currently exists for 16-25 year olds with cancer. The split between paediatric and adult health care means that young adults are too often experiencing a lack of access to specialised care and services. As a result, their chance of survival can be significantly reduced.

You Can is changing this through the establishment of specialised youth cancer centres around Australia. These centres aim to increase survival rates by improving access to services, support and clinical trials; creating a hub for professional medical collaboration; and allowing young adults to be around each other in an encouraging environment.

Please share this post to help raise awareness about how ‘you can’ help people like Jason and Cass.

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