NEGU – ‘Never Ever Give Up’. This is the acronym that 19 year old cancer survivor, Cassandra, repeats at the end of every status update. With a little background, it’s easy to understand why these letters mean so much to her. For over ten years, Cassandra has been battling an incredibly rare bone cancer – only the 4th known case in the world.
As a young adult with cancer, she not only worries about the next treatment, but also how to deal with medical late effects, social differences, cognitive challenges, and emotional hardships. Yet, Cassandra has become an inspiration to others, rising above her disease as a full-time student at Flagler College, an advocate for childhood cancer, and committed partner in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend, Ryan, a U.S. Navy mechanic who is stationed at a distance in Virginia Beach.
In the last week of December, we gave Cassandra and Ryan the perfect opportunity to relax and spend time together – a ‘staycation’ in her favorite town, St. Augustine. Upon arrival, the couple was amazed by historic Casa Monica Hotel. After a warm greeting from the friendly staff, Cassandra couldn’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful room overlooking the romantic downtown.
After settling in to their home for the next few nights, Cassandra and Ryan headed downstairs for a special treat. Outside the front entrance, an enchanting horse drawn carriage awaited the sweet couple for a leisurely ride though the old town’s cobblestone backroads. The carriage brought the couple back full circle to 95 Cordova, the Casa Monica’s elegant eatery, for an unforgettable dining experience. “Dinner was amazing!” Cassandra exclaimed, “I had lobster tail and Ryan had fish – it was all cooked perfect!”
After dinner, the couple decided to take an evening stroll through the gardens and grounds of the nearby Lightner Museum. According to Cassandra, Ryan began acting suspicious and asking strange questions about their future together. Suddenly and unexpectedly, he proceeded to get down on one knee and propose to Cassandra, kicking the romantic life adventure off to an epic start.
Of course, I said YES! – Cassandra, on her recent engagement during her Life Adventure
The next day, Cassandra and Ryan enjoyed zip lining over alligators at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm! This was a major highlight of the trip for them. Cassandra went ahead of Ryan on the ropes course, while he was a great support and help to her. “It was super fun and both of us enjoyed the adventure, challenge and doing it together!” Cassandra said.
After the climbing adventure, Cassandra and Ryan decided to take advantage of their 3-day trolley pass by going to the Old Jail, the St. Augustine History Museum, and the Oldest Store Museum. They learned many new facts about their old favorite town, and came to really appreciate its history. In the evening, the couple explored the ‘other side’ of St. Augustine on a ghost tour filled with spooky stories and a visit to the Old Jail. After working up an appetite, the couple enjoyed a relaxing dinner at The Columbia Restaurant. “It was a great end to a long, long day,” Cassandra said about the meal.
On their last day, the couple started the morning with a massage and facial package at the Casa Monica’s new spa. “This spa was amazing; more amazing than any place I had ever been! Ryan and I were wisped away and treated like a King and Queen” said an excited Cassandra. During a brief rainstorm, they decided to go to Potters Wax Museum, taking pictures and goofing around with the life-like wax figures.
When weather cleared, the couple headed over to the airport for a unique, birds-eye tour of St. Augustine via Old City Helicopters. Cassandra said, “it was an awesome experience for the both of us and we were so quiet taking pictures and taking it all in that our pilot kept checking in on us!” Ryan greatly appreciated the opportunity to fly in a helicopter due to his working on planes in the Navy.
When the helicopter ride was over, Cassandra couldn’t bear for her Life Adventure to come to an end. So, she decided to add some new items to the itinerary. The couple explored Mission of Nombre De Dios where Pedro Menendez landed, enjoyed the Holly Jolly Trolley with Cassandra’s family, a delicious seafood dinner at OC Whites, and some late night coffee and fudge.
It couldn’t have been a more perfect time with just the two of us in my favorite town on a trip just for us!
Multicentric Intraosseous Fibromatosis
Overall, the couple felt it was the trip of a lifetime. The two have been a nine-hour drive apart and struggle with communicating frequently due to Ryan’s demanding career in the US Navy and Cassandra’s full schedule at Flagler College. This trip was a wonderful chance for the couple to enjoy each other’s company with all worries aside. They will both look fondly upon the memories made in St. Augustine whenever the distance feels long.
Everyone here at Live for Today is beyond excited for Cassandra and Ryan in their new engagement, upcoming wedding, and future together! We wish them both all the best in health and happiness. NEGU.
Live for Today has really been a blessing to me personally as I have become a member. The group outings are a chance for me to be around peoples who ‘get me’. This life adventure provided by Live for Today was also a huge blessing to Ryan and myself with this trip because we were able to strengthen our relationship, love and overall connection. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip! Thank you Live for Today for making my first few days as an engaged woman the best few days I have had in a long time with the love of my life!
Multicentric Intraosseous Fibromatosis
A big thank you to all of our donors and contributors – especially, The Casa Monica Hotel, The St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Old Town Trolley Tours, and Old City Helicopters – who helped make this Life Adventure happen.