Australian Cass Bennett never thought she had brain cancer when she saw her doctor for suspected sinusitis. This is how she survived to tell her story.
Australian Cass Bennett never thought she had brain cancer when she saw her doctor for suspected sinusitis. This is how she survived to tell her story.

Chernobyl doc found my brain cancer

Brain cancer was not on Cass Bennett's radar when she saw her doctor for suspected sinusitis.

It was July 23, 2018, when the now 40-year-old Carlton resident presented with a persistent headache after recovering from pneumonia.

Things moved quickly and by the afternoon, Ms Bennett and husband, Daniel Bennett - who have two sons, Julian, 5, and James, 7 - would learn how dramatically their lives were about to change.

"I was seeing my GP who was treating me for pneumonia but we weren't making any progress with my headache, so she sent me to a more senior GP who happened to have worked [as an oncologist] in Belarus that had been heavily impacted by the Chernobyl disaster [where many people suffered tumours]," Ms Bennett said.

"I thought I had sinusitis but she recognised the symptoms and sent me for a CT scan that day."

Cass Bennett, her husband Daniel and oldest son James celebrated Julian's birthday a few weeks early in case Ms Bennett’s surgery was not successful. Picture: supplied
Cass Bennett, her husband Daniel and oldest son James celebrated Julian's birthday a few weeks early in case Ms Bennett’s surgery was not successful. Picture: supplied

In little under two weeks, Ms Bennett underwent surgery to remove 30 per cent of the diffuse astrocytoma - a slow-growing brain tumour.

In the years since, Ms Bennett has had varying results and side effects with different treatments to slow the growth of the remaining tumour but unlike other cancers, there has been little to no improvement in treatment options for brain cancer patients in 30 years.

She will join her family this Sunday to participate in Walk4BrainCancer's first virtual event to raise awareness and funds for brain cancer research - but she won't be walking for herself, she will be walking for Harper Louise.

Ms Bennett relieved to be waking after surgery where 30 per cent of her brain tumour was removed in 2018. Picture: supplied
Ms Bennett relieved to be waking after surgery where 30 per cent of her brain tumour was removed in 2018. Picture: supplied

Ms Bennett was moved after hearing the young girl had died from a paediatric brain cancer called DIPG last year.

"Harper was six when she was diagnosed in 2018 and she died not long after," Ms Bennett said.

"I'm still an active person despite having brain cancer but children who are diagnosed with DIPG have a 100 per cent five-year death rate.

"I have children the same age and it's a reminder that my situation wasn't that great but nowhere near as bad as families of these children."

Mr and Mrs Bennett at an event during the first 12 months of her chemotherapy treatment. Picture: supplied
Mr and Mrs Bennett at an event during the first 12 months of her chemotherapy treatment. Picture: supplied

Cure for Brain Cancer Foundation head of research Dr Robert Rapkins said more than 10,000 Australians will take part in Sunday's virtual walk, ranging in age from nine months to 99 years old.

"Brain cancer doesn't stop because of COVID, and neither can we," Dr Rapkins said.

"This year we've taken Walk4BrainCancer virtual and we've been blown away by the support we've received," Dr Rapkins said.

"Brain cancer kills more kids in Australia than any disease and more people under 40 than any cancer. This desperately needs to change and that's why Walk4BrainCancer is so important."

Ms Bennett took part in a week-long study of potential seizure activity on September 2019. Picture: supplied
Ms Bennett took part in a week-long study of potential seizure activity on September 2019. Picture: supplied

Since 2013, Walk4BrainCancer has helped to raise almost $21 million for world-class research, including $8 million for projects to help kids with brain cancer. It's helped fund 53 game-changing research projects and supported Australian scientists and clinicians.

"We were hoping to raise $1m, but we reached that on Wednesday, so we're now aiming for $1.5m by Sunday," Dr Rapkins said.

"Among the projects, this year's walk will help to fund are a blood test to detect brain cancer, various immunotherapy trials, a clinical trial for DIPG … and support for collaborations between Australia's best brain cancer researchers to help find a cure faster."

Visit walk4braincancer.com.au

Originally published as Chernobyl doc found my brain cancer


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