Submitted by her sister, Monique Gipson
A star is born
Cassy was nine years younger than me, and she was one of a kind. She was different, outgoing, vibrant and always fabulous. Going anywhere with Cassy was never a quick trip. She never met a stranger. Cassy had blond, purple and pink hair, and people were drawn to her — little girls asked her about her hair, and women wanted to know who did her makeup. There was no one who so fearlessly exhibited who they were so authentically. Cassy was defined by her faith, and she shared her love of God with someone every day.
Cassy’s passion was acting, and she took lessons from a young age. Her first acting job was as an extra on “The Wonder Years,” and a part in the movie Blow qualified her for a Screen Actors Guild card. She worked on music videos and on movie sets before she stepped away from Hollywood.
Cassy loved Marilyn Monroe, Tupac Shakur and animals. She loved that Marilyn was authentically herself and went after what she wanted. Cassy cared deeply about the social issues affecting the world and loved Tupac because he confronted social injustice. Cassy supported People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals because of her compassion for animals. She didn’t have a dog of her own, but she loved to visit with her family members’ and neighbors’ dogs and would even buy clothes for them.
Drugs became a part of Cassy’s life after surgery
Cassy became addicted to opioids after major surgery in 2007 for an ulcer that burst. She was placed in a medically induced coma for eight days and was in the hospital for over a month. She had ongoing health issues as a result of the surgery for years and was in and out of the hospital.
How our relationship changed
It was really hard to help Cassy with anything because the drugs had taken over every aspect of her existence.
We worried about bringing her to family events because we didn’t know how she would do. We were afraid to leave her alone, so someone would stay behind with her. Cassy was so isolated at times that even a trip to the grocery store would be difficult. We would take her to the store to run in for something, and then she would get stuck in the store for an hour, looking at all of the produce and the new products because she hadn’t been able to go out for so long.
Cassy fought hard
Cassy was fabulous even when she struggled with illness, even dressing up for surgery. She would go to the hospital in full makeup and lashes. Doctors and nurses would go up to our mom and ask, “Mom, what color eyeshadow and lipstick is Cassy wearing today?”
Our family tried to get every doctor that Cassy saw to help her. She dealt with taking massive amounts of these heavy medications for seven years. Doctors weren’t monitoring or limiting use — they were not managing how all of the medications behaved together. Cassy would fight through adjustments to her medications. Sometimes she would pick up a new prescription and find that it was a different manufacturer than the last medication and have side effects.
When we tried to get help for Cassy, we often ran into issues with HIPAA [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which protects patient privacy]. Doctors told us they couldn’t speak to family members and parents. If Cassy had been able to call at these times, she would have. Sometimes it is the people who need help who can’t call.
Cassy was afraid this would kill her and asked her mom to take pictures of her every day, to document her decline. She wanted to change the way that doctors help patients through withdrawal.
I want her to be remembered as someone who loved everyone and who fought a tremendous battle. She hoped that her battle would eventually change things for those fighting addiction — and change the way doctors prescribe opioids.
We have all heard that opioid use is out of control, but my sister’s story is an example of how the public should look at the medical industry that is prescribing these medications. It seems as if the patients are viewed like if they just tried harder then this wouldn’t have happened to them. My sister tried to get help, to no avail.
We lost Cassy in November
Cassy had been working with doctors to wean her off of the heavy medication she took for so long. She knew that something wasn’t right — she didn’t feel well, and it was taking too long. Cassy called me and asked me if she should call her doctor. We know she did try to call the doctor before she passed away because we checked her phone.
We do not yet know her cause of death because the toxicology tests are still pending, but we do know she was wearing a fentanyl patch when she died.
Cassy asked us to play Tupac at her funeral, and we did.
After Cassy passed away, we heard from people at the pharmacy, Jack in the Box and the nail salon — everyone wanted to know where Cassy was and why they had not seen her.
If I could say one thing to Cassy, it would be this
I will always love you.