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"Cancer ATTACKED...Cancer TOOK...Cancer LOST...Cassie SURVIVED!!!"

In August 2006 I was your typical country girl! I had begun the 8th grade and loved playing basketball and softball. I was elected President of the LeFlore County 4-H and was serving as Secretary of my local 4-H Club. I loved showing pigs and sheep, competing in 4-H contests consumed most of my free time. Living each day taking tomorrow for granted…

After being sick for almost two months I knew it was more than just a stomach bug. Every week it was a new diagnosis, a new medication and the doc telling mom the same old thing. “Follow up in a week if she is not any better.” Even at the age of thirteen I knew it was abnormal to throw up every time I ate just a little bit. Although I continued to lose weight my stomach continued to look more and more pregnant. Finally, after being sent for an Abdominal CT Scan the diagnosis was in. From the look of devastation on my parents face I knew instantly that something was terribly wrong!

September 29th was the day that life as I knew it began to spin out of control. There were times that it seemed to be in slow motion unable to speed up. Other times it felt like we were traveling a million miles an hour unable to apply the brakes. But mostly it felt like I was caught in a Lifetime movie with no escape in sight. Moments after receiving the news that I had a HUGE cancerous mass, I closed my tear filled eyes trying to absorb the scariest news I had ever heard. It was then that my Pastor, Brother David, asked me the most important question, “Who is in control?” I answered, “God”.

I boldly looked at my parents and said, “Don’t worry about me! I am in a win-win situation, either I will beat the cancer and live a long time or I will get to go fishing with Granddad in Heaven. Either way I come out a winner.” From this point on I chose to live one day at a time, to fight one battle at a time, to put a smile on my face and to be a joyful person regardless of the circumstances.

There were times I felt like such a burden. My dad worked as hard as he could work and still managed to spend lots of time with me. My mom stayed with me 24/7 at the hospital and at home. She became my friend, my teacher, my caretaker along with being my mom. My fifteen year old sister picked up at home where mom left off. Taking care of the house and making sure the bills got paid. She saw to it that the house was as sterile as possible and there were few chores for mom to come home to. She made big sacrifices, never complaining once, giving up so much because of me. I know there were times she had to feel so alone, left out, even forgotten.

I missed seeing my friends, going to class and being able to work on my 4-H projects. I could not go into large crowds for fear of infection. I even had to get rid of my show pigs. It was hard to stay caught up with my school work. Mom would read my literature stories and my history chapters to me. It was like she was back in school all over again. In the end I managed to keep good grades and keep up with the class. I am even graduating 3rd in my class!

I have wanted to be a pediatric nurse since I was a little girl, but it was not until I was treated for cancer, that I knew I want to be a children’s oncology nurse. I believe that not only can I provide excellent medical attention to the patients who are fighting a battle of a lifetime, but I will be able to relate on a totally different level. I will know all about the aches and pains, and the desperate feelings. I was comforted and inspired by the stories that survivors shared with me and was able to share some of my biggest fears and concerns with them. Things that I would have never told my parents because I did not want them to worry any more or for them to feel any worse than they already felt.

My doctors and nurses became my care givers, my friends and some even became like family. They not only provided medical attention, they delivered inspiration, shared smiles and happiness. They gave hugs when needed and there were times they became my tutor or played a card game or two.

I learned that cancer attacks the entire family. That an oncology nurse not only has the responsibility of patient care but often helps hold the entire family together. During my treatments lifetime bonds were created. To this day I still share with them my triumphs and defeats. They sit on the edge of their seats as I do while waiting on follow-up test results. Their hearts were broke and they shed just as many tears as I did when we found out the cancer was back and I had to begin the battle all over again.

I saw so many opportunities to be able to give back and help children just like me. With Community Service as one of my 4-H projects, I set out on a mission to do all I could to help the Oncology Unit for OU Children’s Hospital and to build a LeFlore County 4-H Relay for Life Team. With the help of fellow 4-Her’s, we developed the “Share the Warmth” project making and delivering over 200 blankets to the 10th floor at OU Children’s Hospital.

Ronald McDonald House was another project that I have worked hard for. I hosted a competitive contest at school to see which class could collect the most pop-tabs for Ronald McDonald. In just three years we have delivered over three-hundred gallons!! This summer I have the opportunity to serve as a Teen Survivor Counselor at Camp Dream Street. Some of my best memories and friendships were made there. It felt good to be around kids that I had so much in common with. Camp allowed me to be a little more normal during some very abnormal time.

Until a cure is found it is my dream that I can help children fight their battle. Allowing them to put their name in the place of mine in my life’s motto: Cancer ATTACKED – Cancer TOOK – Cancer LOST – CASSIE SURVIVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!