‘Jumping for Joy’

Fifth grader’s family plans celebration for end of chemotherapy process

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Photo by Haynsworth Photography

Sloan Creek fifth grader Mallory Cass is now in remission from leukemia after being diagnosed in June of 2014. Her parents credit the family’s faith as well as community support in helping them get through what her mother described as their “worst nightmare.”

Still in her pajamas, Sloan Creek fifth grader Mallory Cass leapt from her bed and bolted outside. It was about 8:30 in the morning, and school had already started, but today was a special day—one that warranted missing a bit of class.

Today was the day Mallory got her trampoline back.

Once she was outside, Mallory eagerly scrambled onto her newly assembled trampoline. She bounced and flipped for as long as she could, a wide smile plastered on her face and her hair flying about.

This was her happy place.

This was the place she’d yearned to be for so long.

This was the place that, for about two and a half years, leukemia kept from her.

On June 13, 2014, Mallory was diagnosed with the cancer, and her mother, Staci Cass, said she felt “like [her] world was falling apart.”

“It is earth shattering and it’s your worst nightmare,” Staci said. “You don’t want your children to be abducted or have cancer, and ultimately be faced with life and death decisions, and so it’s your worst nightmare.”

Mallory had to endure taxing treatment, which included chemotherapy.

“The first 11 months, she went through very hard chemo where she lost 14 pounds, [and] her hair came out,” Staci said. “She was very, very sick. After that, she went through phase one of a maintenance phase, so it was a little less chemo, and that allowed her to kind of gain some weight back and get a little stronger. And then the last half, phase two of the maintenance phase, is what she just completed, and it was an easier regimen than phase one.”

Mallory’s father, Rich Cass, credited the family’s faith with keeping them hopeful and grounded amid the struggles the disease presented.

“At 7 years old, [Mallory] made a decision, we did not prod her really, but just being in our church community and leading her in a Christian life, she chose Jesus as her savior,” Rich said. “That was important part of her in the dark times, knowing that God still loves her and He’s not punishing her. That was the main thing that really helped her and our family kind of hold things together.”

The Cass family also received an outpouring of love and support from the community.

“This community in Lovejoy is unlike any other, and we heard that before we moved here,” Rich said. “I just wish there was a way we could thank the community. We try to tell folks when we encounter them how much their support and their kind words and, most importantly, their prayers mean.”

To the joy of her family, friends, and the rest of the community, Mallory is now finished with chemotherapy and is in remission.

“We thought she was going to have one last dose of chemo, and we were at the doctor’s office,” Staci said. “The doctor was studying her chart and he came in and told us that she was going to have to have her lumbar puncture and her bone marrow biopsy because she did not have to have chemo that last week. So, that was awesome news, you have no idea.”

Mallory jumping on her trampoline for the first time since her diagnosis.
Courtesy of the Cass family
Mallory jumping on her trampoline for the first time since her diagnosis.

The end of Mallory’s treatment became legitimate when her port, which is a surgically inserted disc that chemotherapy medication is given through, was taken out on Oct. 25.

“It was surreal, very surreal, because it was one of those moments of going, ‘Are we really done?’” Staci said. “It took [Mallory] about four days to recover from the surgery, so that was hard. She was in a lot of pain, but just the excitement.”

Mallory has to get blood work done once a month to ensure the cancer cells don’t return, but she has been cleared to return to physical activity, which includes jumping on her beloved trampoline. Mallory has also already been to several gymnastics classes, which she was “very active in” before she became ill.

“I got to go take her [to a class] and just as a parent—its one of those things I would’ve never been able to understand until parenthood—but as a parent you wish you could take it on yourself, and it doesn’t work that way,” Rich said. “So every time I get to see her smile and laugh when she’s bouncing on the trampoline or in a gymnastics class, I try and take just a second and reimagine [the] many times we were in the hospital when she was near death, and I think about that for just a second and then let that be overcome by the glee and the joy that I see in her face when she’s getting to do what she wants to do, which is just be a normal kid.”

The Cass family will be sharing their joy towards Mallory’s recovery with others at an end of chemotherapy party, which will be held at Jumpstreet in December.

“We’re hosting an end of chemo party for her called ‘Jumping for Joy,’ and that’s going to be a big deal because that’s where we can celebrate and have friends and family who have supported us come and all kind of be apart of our celebration,” Staci said.