HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Cassandra Callender, who was forced by Connecticut courts as a teenager to undergo chemotherapy for cancer, has died after a five-year battle with the disease, her mother said Thursday. She was 22.
Callender, of Windsor Locks, died Tuesday at home, where she had been in hospice care for four months, Jackie Fortin said.
“The cancer never went away,” Fortin said. “They said they saved her life. They lied. She suffered for five years. It was horrific. If you did that to your dog, you’d get arrested.”
A judge in 2015 ordered Callender, known as “Cassandra C.” during her legal fight, to undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She had refused treatment, saying she didn’t want to poison her body.
“Some things work, some things don’t. Nothing always works. Neither is a guarantee,” she said. “That was the point we were trying to make all along. It should have been her choice.”
Children and Families Commissioner Vanessa Dorantes offered condolences Thursday.
“We are saddened to learn of the loss of this young life, and we extend our sympathies to Cassandra’s family during this very difficult and emotional time,” she said in a written statement.
During her illness, Callender gave birth to twin sons, who are now 19 months old.
Fortin is remembering her daughter as very intelligent and liked by teachers and peers, but said she was denied many of the joys of being a teenager, such as getting a driver’s license.
Her mother said she plans an online fundraiser to help pay for the funeral.
“I raised her to be a fighter, and that’s what she was,” Fortin said. “She went through hell. She never had a life. She never had a chance. I hold every doctor and nurse who touched her, DCF, the courts — I hold everyone responsible.”