Gloucester City’s Cassidy Voll was recently surprised with a complete bedroom makeover. It was courtesy of the Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter of Special Spaces, whose mission is to create dream bedrooms for children with life-threatening medical illnesses.
Cassidy was recommended for a bedroom renovation by Glenn Brown, school psychologist at Gloucester City Junior-Senior High School (GHS). Brown is also the brother of Kim Resnick, the director of the Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter of Special Spaces.
Cassidy is a 13-year old eighth grade student at GHS and she was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) on November 27, 2013.
Cassidy’s mom, Kim, remembered that just prior to her daughter’s diagnosis, Cassidy had been complaining of a stomach ache that would not go away.
Kim said: “After a few days, we finally went to urgent care, who sent us to the ER at Cooper. They sent us right to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).”
After undergoing blood tests, an ultrasound, and a bone marrow biopsy, Cassidy was diagnosed with ALL on a Wednesday and immediately began chemotherapy that Friday.
The American Cancer Society states that ALL is a cancer that starts from the early version of white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow, which is the soft inner part of the bones where new blood cells are made. Leukemia cells usually invade the blood fairly quickly and can spread to other parts of the body.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in the U.S. in 2015, there have been approximately 6,250 new cases of ALL. That figure includes children and adults. Of those cases, 3,100 are male and 3,150 are females.
As for treatments Cassid, undergoes monthly chemotherapy sessions on an outpatient basis. At home every night, she takes chemotherapy and on Wednesdays, she is administered two types of chemotherapy. Every three months, Cassidy must undergo a spinal tap to ensure the ALL doesn’t spread to her spine. (It has not.
Cassidy states that when she first received her diagnosis, she was most afraid of losing her hair, which happened ten days after she began chemotherapy. But before she lost her hair, Cassidy dyed it orange, which is the signature color for leukemia awareness.
These days, Cassidy’s light brown hair has grown back to shoulder length. She proudly shows off the highlights and lowlights that have been added courtesy of P&B Beauty School where she has a standing appointment.
Cassidy said: “They told me I can come in whenever I want and for whatever I want.”
Throughout her diagnosis and treatment, Kim marvels at her daughter’s strength and says Cassidy is “her buddy.” Cassidy says her motto throughout all of this has always been: “I’m good.” Kim explained: “That’s because no matter how you feel on crappy days, you have to look forward to the good days.”
Late last year, Hoda Kotb of the Today Show learned of Cassidy’s ALL diagnosis though CHOP. She invited Cassidy and Kim to travel to New York so Cassidy could appear on television with other children from the CHOP. Cassidy was also featured in one of Kotb’s “Truly Brave” videos. (*Note, this video is no longer available online.) Cassidy said that Kotb was nice and has been in touch a few times since the video came out. She said Kathie Lee popped her head in the green room before she went on tv to say hello and to share: “My daughter’s name is Cassidy.”
While they were waiting in the green room, Kim said singer Nick Lachey also stopped in. Cassidy said Lachey was also very nice and he took the time to talk with her and the other kids and to take pictures with them.
It was during the time when the “Truly Brave” was made, that Kim noticed her daughter didn’t seem herself and asked her GHS teacher, Sue Cipriani, to keep an eye on her. Cipriani learned that Cassidy was feeling sad and isolated by her friends at school. “My friends stopped talking to me, but people can ask me anything and I will answer them,” Cassidy said.
So Cipriani spearheaded an effort to make another starring Cassidy that shared the story of how the teen feels. The second video was filmed at GHS.
Because of the steroids that Cassidy had taken as part of her “chemotherapy cocktail,” her bones were affected and she is scheduled to undergo a double hip replacement on December 2.
Following the hip replacement surgery, Cassidy and Kim are looking ahead to March 16, when after two and a half years, Cassidy will receive her last scheduled chemotherapy treatment. After that, Cassidy will have follow up blood work to make sure she doesn’t relapse.
Kim said: “She has a high success for beating it and not relapsing.”
Cassidy was not a fan of her old bedroom, which she said hadn’t been updated since she was little. Her old room was almost completely ripped out and a whole skip was filled. The Special Spaces team even removed Cassidy’s old broken TV. A brand new TV was put it the old one’s place. Cassidy’s bedroom renovation could not have come at a better time. Cassidy said she “just loves” the new room and everything in it. She likes to sit at her desk to go on her computer.
When asked how she decided on a black and white room with teal accents, Cassidy responded: “I went on Pinterest and just picked out pictures of things that I liked.”
She looks forward to having sleepovers in her room with friends and she is glad she has a place for her and her friends to just go and hang out.
Kim also loves the bedroom and said Cassidy is happier now.
“When she gets out of bed, she actually makes it now too,” Kim said with a laugh.
One picture that is prominently displayed on Cassidy’s new white wainscoted walls is that of an autographed photograph of actress-singer, Zendaya, whom Cassidy met when the star made a surprise appearance to visit the patients at CHOP.
Cassidy said: “When I found out Zendaya was there, I grabbed my IV pole – I can move pretty fast with it – and I ran down to see her. She stood up when she saw me and she took a picture with me and gave me her autograph.”
“She’s so tall and so nice,” Cassidy said.
Another picture that hangs on the opposite wall from Zendaya’s photograph is a piece of inspirational art that Cassidy said is her favorite from among all of the other pieces that the Special Spaces volunteers brought for her. It says: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
To see more photos of Cassidy’s room renovation, visit the Facebook page of Special Spaces Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter by clicking here.