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09
Jul
2019

Sydney mother living with brain cancer to run City2Surf

By Cassandra Bennett 

In July 2018 I was recovering from a bout of pneumonia. It had been a relatively nasty season for pneumonia, but I had tolerated the illness well. I hadn’t required a hospital stay or anytime out from the normal hubbub of life with my two kids under five and my full-time job, but something wasn’t right.

My GP was convinced that my persistent headache was the result of the sinusitis that came with the pneumonia, but for some reason none of the antibiotics I had been taking were making any difference to the pain, particularly early in the mornings. After several discussions with my GP we decided to do a CT scan.

Cassanda and her husband Daniel will run together at next month's City2Surf.

Generally, the staff at imaging clinics are reasonably good at keeping a straight face, not giving too much away – but when the staff asked me to stay after the CT scan for an MRI. I knew something was wrong. When pressed on why I would need an MRI for sinusitis, the nurse at the imaging clinic just said, “I can’t tell you, but you need to stay.” 

The results of the MRI showed a large brain tumour. Two weeks later, in early August 2018 I underwent a subtotal resection that removed approximately 30% of the tumour. Pathology revealed a stage II diffuse astrocytoma. The remaining tumour has infiltrated the left medial temporal lobe and the para hippocampal region.  I am now halfway through a 12-month course of chemotherapy, with radiation on standby.

The 10 months following my diagnosis were extraordinarily challenging. Suddenly I had become the cautionary tale – the dinner party story.

Cassandra recovering in hospital following surgery.

“This girl I knew from high school/rowing/ballet/ insert some other activity, was out in the world living a full life - until she was hit with a brain cancer.”

I was the person that large congregations of people were praying for and the focus of special meetings of large multi-disciplinary teams. In the time since my diagnosis, I have lost my independence, I cannot work while I undergo treatment, I cannot drive due to suspected seizure activity and I lost the feeling in large sections of the right side of my body.

However, with adversity comes opportunity, a new path. I am also acutely aware that I am lucky to have a less aggressive form of the disease. So, while I am still finding my way through the fog, I have started to engage with the brain cancer community, connecting with other patients and attending various functions.

Cassandra at a Walk4BrainCancer event in 2018.

Together, with my family and friends, I have started to support research initiatives through fundraising. So far, we have raised just over $20,000. To add to this total, my husband Daniel and I will be running in the City2Surf with Cure Brain Cancer Foundation this year – I had better start training! Terrifyingly, brain cancer survival rates have not improved in 30 years, but I am going to do everything I can to turn the tide on this in my lifetime - and your help would be greatly appreciated. 

Donate to Cassandra's personal fundraising page

Join Team Cure Brain Cancer at City2Surf