Family walks in memory of daughter, sister

Published 6:08 pm Thursday, May 14, 2009

Two years ago, a brown-eyed toddler named Cassidy Schuttinga walked the cancer survivor’s lap at Relay for Life of West Shelby County. Only two years old, she was the relay’s youngest cancer survivor.

Two years later, Cassidy’s parents, Karen and Scott, and five-year-old brother Caleb walked a lap around Calera’s Oliver Park in memory of Cassidy, who passed away March 18 at age 4.

The Schuttingas walked hand in hand during this year’s Relay for Life event May 8, and the community that has embraced and consoled them walked closely behind.

“We have a lot of people who know us because of Cassidy,” said Karen, her voice broken by tears. “There were a ton of people standing next to us walking beside us through this. I just can’t imagine going through what we’ve gone through without our friends and our family.”

Karen continued, “The connection that you get with other people that have been touched by cancer is huge. The relay brings to people’s minds and hearts what people go through … the hardships of chemotherapy, the hardships of surviving this horrible disease.”

Karen and Scott spoke before the crowd and shared their daughter’s story. At 11 weeks old, Cassidy was diagnosed with a cancerous Wilms tumor found inside her left kidney. The cancer recurred four times throughout Cassidy’s life, and through it all, she never lost her sense of optimism and wonder. She never lost faith.

“Cassidy loved the hospital because she was there so much, but it was also kind of sad,” Scott said. “No kid should have to think the hospital is a normal life, and that’s why we fight.”

“Why We Fight” was the theme of the Schuttingas’ message. The family supports additional funding for childhood cancer research, and they want to raise public awareness about childhood cancer.

“We don’t want other parents to have to go through what we did,” Scott said. “There’s so much money that goes into adult cancer research and so little goes in childhood cancer research. We want to get recognition for childhood cancer and have people continue to fight for that.”

Karen added, “There are so many kids who don’t make it. It’s not normal for a child to pass away at any age.”

The Schuttingas, who are expecting a baby boy later this year, maintain Cassidy’s online journal, which can be found at In one of their latest entries, Karen and Scott thanked Relay for Life and the community for its prayers and support.

“It was a very emotional night, but Karen and I really had a good time,” Scott said. “I think we are both looking to get more involved with next year’s relay.”