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Bergen County Coworkers Rally For 'Angelic' Special Ed Behaviorist Battling Cancer -- Again

Cassie Romano
Cassie Romano Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ashley Van Valen

Ashley Van Valen and Jenny Venezio have long called Cassie Romano their angel.

The three met each other working in Paramus for Bergen County Special Services, and have since become close friends.

"She has this platinum blonde hair," said Van Valen of Dumont. "She lights up a room and she's so soft-spoken."

"She's the sweetest, most generous person," Venezio added. "She cares about her friends, family and the students she works with."

And so when Cassie was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer last September, Van Valen and Venezio knew they needed to be what their colleague has always for them: Angels.

Van Valen and Venezio last month launched a GoFundMe campaign for Romano that had raised more than $13,800 as of Tuesday morning.

"When we realized how tough of a road ahead she had," said Venezio, "we knew we had to help in some way."

Cassie Romano and Ashley Van Valen, who met working for Bergen County Special Services in Paramus.

Courtesy of Ashley Van Valen

Cassie's first bout with cancer began in January 2020, when she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. After the diagnosis, she underwent a double mastectomy and six weeks of radiation.

On May 22, 2020, Cassie, of Emerson, was in remission.

But in September of that year, during a routine scan, doctors found a spot on Cassie's liver. The cancer had spread and, this time, it was worse: Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

"For a long time, none of us realized how bad the situation was, Van Valen said. "Cassie has been so positive about everything -- she’s so strong. She puts on a brave face does what she has to do."

But it soon became clear to Van Valen and Venezio that Cassie needed them now -- more than ever.

"When we realized how tough of a road ahead she had," said Venezio, "we knew we had to help in some way."

While Cassie was fighting her own cancer battle, her dad in South Dakota was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.

Cassie Romano and her father

Courtesy of Ashley Van Valen

"All of Cassie's family is out there, in South Dakota" Van Valen said. "She has no family here. Basically all of her friends in New Jersey are coworkers and people she’s met through work. Plus, because of the pandemic she can’t travel to see anyone. It's been a pretty horrible situation."

And so, Venezio and Van Valen kicked around some ideas with more coworkers, ultimately deciding on a GoFundMe to help ease the financial burden.

Cassie recently took two weeks off of work, and is waiting to start a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York City.

While Van Valen and Venezio at times feel helpless, they say Cassie's strength and positivity have been unwavering.

"I saw her the other day and you wouldn’t even know eh had this horrible diagnosis," Van Valen said. "She said she isn't scared and that what happens is meant to happen."

Click here to donate to "Cassie's Crusaders."

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