By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The groups who loved, supported and felt the impact of Cassandra “Cassy” Leigh Colunga made their way to her memorial service to celebrate her life.
Members of her home church Crosspointe Baptist helped fill the sanctuary Friday night. Some of the well-wishers wore Lucy Elementary shirts to express their love for Cassy. Others were classmates who started their first day of high school on Monday, the day Cassy passed away.
Others were community leaders, some came from the St. Jude family to say goodbye to Cassy. But the most influential group was Cassy’s large family. From across the country they came to Millington to support her parents Luis and Laura Colunga and Joanna and Adam Blankenship.
The service was under the guidance of Crosspointe Pastor Cody Page. It was a few years ago Page was introduced to Cassy. The bright face sixth-grader was in his Youth Bible Study Class.
There bond was formed through Wednesday nights and it grew stronger after Sept. 7, 2014.
It was that day Cassy was rushed to the ER with severe headaches and vomiting. On Sept. 18 her diagnosis was Glioblastoma Stage IV. Over the next 23 months, Colunga and Team Cassy inspired the community, her peers and the St. Jude community.
Friday was time for those Cassy touched to say thank you for the example of devoted faith. Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham sent a Resolution in honor of Cassy calling her a Little Angel.
Then the Student Ham performed Cassy’s favorite song of “Oceans.” Then Page delivered an emotional, heartfelt eulogy.
He noted how Cassy was an example of love, joy, strength and never-waiving faith in Christ. He said Cassy will be remembered for her smile, impact on others while suffering from brain cancer and for giving back during her time of pain.
Page said in her 14-years on this earth, Cassy lived her life to its fullest. She is survived by her parents, Joanna and Adam Blankenship and Luis and Laura Colunga; siblings, Matthew Colunga, Aiden Blankenship, Genesis Colunga, and Jordan Colunga; grandparents, George and Francisca Salazar, Anastacio and Maria A. Colunga, and Earl and Rita Blankenship.
IN CASSY’S WORD
Prior to her passing, Cassy gave her testimony during a Crosspointe Baptist Church function. Those words were played during her memorial service Friday night.
On Sept. 7, 2014, I had a CT scan and the results showed a tumor in my brain. When I heard the word tumor, I was in shock and began crying. How could this be happening to me?
The following morning, my tumor hemorrhage and my brain and my body were going into a coma. I would have to be in emergency surgery. Before the surgery, the neurosurgeons explained to my parents that because of the location of the tumor, there were many risk associated with the surgery. I may never move my right side. I might never talk again. I might never walk again. It was a possibility I might not wake up from the surgery.
But with everybody’s prayers and God’s will, I was walking and talking just two days after the surgery. I was finally sent to St. Jude on Sept. 18. They gave me the final diagnosis — Glioblastoma Stage IV. For many of you that don’t know, Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive brain tumors that you can have.
I begin my radiation treatment on Sept. 29. Some days I was so tired, I just wanted to go home and sleep. I prayed to God and He gave me the strength to get through those long days.
Around the third week of radiation, I started to lose my hair. This is one of the hardest and dramatic moments of my life. I was afraid of how the others would look at me. Would they laugh at me? Make fun of me? Stare at me? Or will feel sorry for me?
I hide under scarves and beanies for the next several weeks. Then one day I thought to myself, ‘This is not the person I want to be. Or the person God wants me to be.’ I wanted other girls to look at me and be inspired, to feel comfortable with themselves.
At this time the radiation started to burn my back. Some days I was in so much pain, I wanted to lay down and not move at all. Once again, God answered my prayers. He gave me the courage to keep fight.
Now I have completed radiation and all my treatments. I will continue to go back every 3 months for an MRI. My last MRI in February showed my tumor continued to shrink.
I know several people have asked me, ‘How can you still believe in God after everything you’ve been through?’ I remember telling them, ‘God has given me the strength, courage, hope and determination to beat cancer. He had given me a second chance at life.’
We don’t choose what happens to us in life. But we choose to let the experience be negative or positive. I’ve chosen to make my experience positive and inspire others to have faith in God. Even through the hard times.
I want to inspire you to live everyday like it’s your last. To take advantage of the little moments. To tell your family and friends that you love them. To smile and laugh each day. And most of all, I want you to continue walking with God through any struggle.
The next song “Oceans” has meaning to me like no song before. I’ve learn to trust in God without borders. And to walk wherever He may lead me. By this experience my faith has remain stronger than ever before.