Cassandra C. lives in Windsor Locks, Conn., and is under the care of the state Department of Children and Families. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled last week that she is not legally competent or mature enough to reject treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. She wrote this for Tribune Newspapers.
Over the past 17 years, I have lived a good life. It has always just been me and my mom and all of our pets. My mom raised me well, to be a strong, competent and independent woman. She taught me right from wrong and always led me in the right direction, standing by my side through every decision I made. I wouldn't have my strength, determination and motivation if it weren't for my mom. She played the role of a mom and a dad, and she did a damn good job!
Words cannot describe what my life has become over the last few months. "Horrifying" seems like an understatement. What I have been going through is traumatizing. Never did it cross my mind that one day I would be diagnosed with cancer. In September, after a stressful summer of blood work, examinations and biopsies, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
I am a human - I should be able to decide if I do or don't want chemotherapy.
My mom and I wanted to make sure my diagnosis was correct, so we agreed to seek a second opinion. We wanted to be 100 percent sure I had cancer. Apparently, going for the second opinion and questioning doctors was considered "wasting time" and "not necessary." My mom was reported to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families for medical neglect because we weren't meeting the doctors' time standard.
In no way is my mom neglectful. She has always put me before herself. I am offended by anyone who believes otherwise. My mom has been identified as "hostile," "neglectful" and "unsupportive," three untrue words that break my heart.
In October, DCF and nearly the entire Windsor Locks Police Department arrived when I was home alone and surrounded my house, banging on doors and windows. I hid in my closet, crying on the phone with Mom and my friends, until Mom came home. I sat in my closet for at least an hour while Mom, DCF and the police argued downstairs. I was scared.
I had to leave with DCF. They had me medically evaluated and placed in a foster home until a court date. I was devastated. I needed to be with my mom.
Taking me away from my mom in no way is in my best interest. There are children who need DCF, but I am not one of them.
In November, I was allowed to return home to my mom with the promise to start chemotherapy immediately. Although I didn't have any intention of proceeding with the chemotherapy once I returned home, I endured two days of it. Two days was enough; mentally and emotionally, I could not go through with chemotherapy. I felt backed up against the wall. I had no right to choose what I wanted. I was told I had a voice and was being heard, but it didn't feel like it. I took things into my own hands - I was fed up with DCF - and ran away. I was willing to leave everything I loved - my mom, my friends, my job, my cat, Simba, and, most important, my life that I absolutely loved - to get away from being forced into something that I didn't want.
I packed all my stuff after Mom fell asleep, left my house and met up with people who were willing to take me in and help me. I had no intention of returning to or staying in Connecticut. The people I stayed with were loving and understanding and took such good care of me.
I began to see myself on the news and people from all over were trying to contact me. Some people thought I was dead, and I heard my mom was going to be put in jail, because it was assumed she knew where I was or that she was hiding me somewhere. She didn't - I never even told her that I was leaving - and I couldn't, because I knew she would try to stop me. After about a week, I returned home, because I didn't want people to think I was dead, and I would never forgive myself if my mom went to jail for something I did.
DCF immediately brought me to the hospital to be evaluated. I was OK, and they let me go home. I thought it was over. I was wrong.
In December, a decision was made to hospitalize me. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I did know I wasn't going down without a fight.
I was admitted to the same room I'm in now, with someone sitting by my door 24/7. I could walk down the hallway as long as security was with me, but otherwise I couldn't leave my room. I felt trapped.
After a week, they decided to force chemotherapy on me. I should have had the right to say no, but I didn't have that right. I was strapped to a bed by my wrists and ankles and sedated. I woke up in the recovery room with a port surgically placed in my chest. I was outraged and felt completely violated. My phone was taken away, the hospital phone was removed from my room and even the scissors I used for art were taken.
I have been locked in this hospital for a month, missing time from work, not being able to pay my bills. I couldn't celebrate Christmas and New Year's with my friends and family. I miss my cat and I miss fresh air. Having visitors is complicated, seeing my mom is limited, and I've not been able to see all of the people I'd like to. My friends are a major support; I need them. Finally, I was given an iPad. I can message my friends on Facebook, but it is nowhere near like calling a friend at night when I can't sleep or hearing someone's voice to cheer me up.
This experience has been a continuous nightmare. I want the right to make my medical decisions. It's disgusting that I'm fighting for a right that I and anyone in my situation should already have. This is my life and my body, not DCF's and not the state's. I am a human - I should be able to decide if I do or don't want chemotherapy. Whether I live 17 years or 100 years should not be anyone's choice but mine.
How long is a person actually supposed to live, and why? Who determines that? I care about the quality of my life, not just the quantity.