Interview with Cassandra Bennett: Mother-of-two from Australia, was diagnosed with a Diffuse Astrocytoma Grade 2 in 2018.
Cassandra had gone to her doctor about an episode of pneumonia and an accompanying sinus infection. She was required to have more investigation by a very efficient GP.
He asks if there were any other problems she may be having. Cassandra said she had been having terrible headaches and nothing was working to help with them. She explained how her headaches were debilitating. The doctor booked her in for an MRI.
In August 2018 Cassandra she was diagnosed with a Diffuse Astrocytoma. She underwent a subtotal resection that removed approximately 30% of the tumour. The remaining tumour has infiltrated the left medial temporal lobe and the parahippocampal region.
In November 2018, Cassandra started a 12-month course of chemotherapy. She shares with us how she is doing ten months on and what she is doing in her life.
How are you doing now?
I’m in chemo right now – but I feel well, and I am taking much better care of myself.
Due to the size and diffuse nature of the disease, we took a reasonably aggressive approach to chemotherapy. My current chemo schedule is 21 days on and seven days off.
What do you do now in your life?
I have become very family-centric, I spend lots of time with my two kids – I train for various fundraising walks and runs and not creating a range of T-shirts, cups and mugs to help raise funds for research. I have also started a blog, and I am working on a treatment diary for patients.
I have raised over 25,000 Australian Dollars for a Cure Brain Cancer.
What motivates you?
Getting up every day – every day is a gift and a day that I am pleased to have, especially while I am feeling well.
Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
My husband – initially, I felt as though the life we had built had all but been erased, but it was Dan that found the fortitude to move cautiously forward in this new direction. His pragmatism has had a profound impact on my own reaction to the disease- “we can’t spend time worrying about things that have not happened yet” – and he is correct.
I am very grateful, for Dan’s love and partnership (more so than I ever realised I could be), as we take this path together.
What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
I was an excellent athlete, but too short to row for Australia, so I took a scholarship in the USA at a university with a standout rowing program – married, had kids – but brain cancer tops the list of interesting things that have happened to me.
What is the toughest challenge a survivor’s face?
Knowing what to do next. If I knew I was going to live for 2 years I would spend every moment with my children (4 years old and 6 years old), if I was going to live for 5 years I would travel (with the kids) and if I knew was going to live 10 years I would potentially work.
What is next on your agenda?
Tackle the toughest half marathon in the world in Tasmania (Australia) in November, create a survivor-ship journal.
I am going to release a set of merchandise – (water bottles, coffee cups and t-shirts) to raise research funds which will be donated through the charity I am running the Point to Pinnacle for.
I have also written a little update on the importance of research and the opportunity we have to make a measurable impact on outcomes for patients in the next 10 years.
Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
Roll with it and do not hang out for good news or bad news – everything I have seen so far is that after diagnosis is that there is no good news and no bad news – its just news. Developments through treatment do not always have positive or negative outcomes – it’s just a path and you are on it, whether you like it or not.
Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything?
I am a homebody. I am outgoing, so most people assume that I like being out and about – the truth is that I am loving being at home more.
Conclusion: Cassandra Bennett, you are amazing! I wish you all the best for your treatment and I look forward to seeing all the fundraising you carry on doing.
Follow Cassandra’s Diffuse Astrocytoma journey: