'I'm so happy to be home... it's almost unreal': Teen, 17, who was forced to have chemotherapy and is now in remission released from hospital after four months

  • Cassandra Fortin removed from Hartford, Connecticut, home in January
  • She was forced to undergo chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Her mother Jackie had supported desire to explore natural alternatives
  • But state ruled teen was not legally mature enough to make the decision
  • On Monday, Cassandra was released from the Children's Medical Center
  • She said 'I'm so happy', adding that the feeling of fresh air 'is wonderful'
  • Teen was reunited with mother in April for first time since the New Year
  • Cancer is in remission, but she says she is happy she 'fought for my rights'

A 17-year-old Connecticut girl who was forced to have chemotherapy for her cancer has finally been released from hospital after she was removed from her home almost four months ago.

Cassandra Fortin has finished the treatment a court ruled that she must undergo at Connecticut Children's Medical Center for Hodgkin's lymphoma, which she was diagnosed with in September.

As she was discharged from the facility on Monday, the teenager said she was 'happy' to be heading back to her Hartford home after spending five months undergoing chemotherapy to save her life.

'I'm so happy to finally be on my way home, after 5 months,' she told The Associated Press in a series of text messages while traveling home. 'It feels almost unreal. The feeling of fresh air is wonderful.'

Released: Cassandra Fortin, 17, (seen with her mother Jackie) was released from hospital on Monday after she was made to undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma, which she was diagnosed with in September.

Released: Cassandra Fortin, 17, (pictured with her mother Jackie) was released from hospital on Monday after she was made to undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma, which she was diagnosed with last year

Happy: As she was discharged from hospital, the teenager (pictured with her mom) said she was 'happy' to be heading back to her Hartford home after spending five months undergoing chemotherapy to save her life

Happy: As she was discharged from hospital, the teenager (pictured with her mom) said she was 'happy' to be heading back to her Hartford home after spending five months undergoing chemotherapy to save her life

Cassandra, whose cancer is now in remission, made national headlines last year after she and her mother initially refused the treatment. They said they wanted to explore natural alternatives instead.

But in January, a court ruled that Cassandra could not make the decision because she was not legally mature enough and the state's Department of Children and Families gained temporary custody of her. 

The case centered on whether the girl, who ran away during a home visit in November, was mature enough to determine how to treat her cancer. Connecticut's high court found that she was not.

Some other states recognize the mature minor doctrine. 

Cassandra, who will be free to make her own medical decisions when she turns 18 in September, was surprised on Monday when her mother brought her best friend to hospital to bring her home.

'This day seemed like it would never come,' she told the AP. 'I can finally start putting my life back together. I look forward to spending time with my mom, friends and heading back to school/work.'

Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September but did not want to receive the recommended treatment before exploring natural alternatives 

Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September but did not want to receive the recommended treatment before exploring natural alternatives 

But in January a court ruled Cassandra could not make the decision because she was not legally mature enough and the state's Department of Children and Families gained temporary custody of the teen
'Cassandra found out her cancer was in remission in early March. The teenager wrote on Facebook that she was grateful she had responded to the drugs, but said she did not regret that she 'fought for my rights'

But in January a court ruled Cassandra could not make the decision because she was not legally mature enough and the state's Department of Children and Families gained temporary custody of the teen

Cassandra was confined at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, where she underwent six rounds of treatment that doctors say will give her an 85 percent chance of survival.

Without the chemotherapy, doctors said it was almost certain the teenager would die.

She said doctors told her in early March that her cancer was in remission and posted on Facebook that she was grateful she had responded well to the drugs and never wanted to die.

WHAT IS HODGKIN'S LYMPHOMA?

Hodgkins lymphoma (cells pictured) is a disease of the white blood cells

Hodgkins lymphoma (cells pictured) is a disease of the white blood cells

Hodgkin's Lymphoma is cancer of the white blood cells called B lymphocytes that circulate around the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and glands spread throughout the body.

The lymphatic system is part of your immune system. Clear fluid called lymph flows through the lymphatic vessels and contains infection-fighting white blood cells known as lymphocytes.

Lymphoma causes the lymphocytes to multiply in an abnormal way and collect in certain parts of the lymphatic system, such as the lymph nodes or glands. These lymphocytes lose their infection-fighting properties, making you more vulnerable to infection.

The most common symptom of HL is a painless swelling in a lymph node, usually in the neck, armpit or groin.

It usually affects young adults aged between 15 and 35 and adults over the age of 50. 

Almost all young people with HL will be fully cured. For older people over the age of 50, the cure rate is around 75 per cent to 80 per cent.

Treatment depends on the extent of the cancer and will usually involve a combination of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and drugs including steroids. 

'I stood up and fought for my rights, and I don't regret it,' she said.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Cassandra wrote that she had 'less than 48 hours left in the hospital' and 'couldn't be happier', according to the Associated Press.

The teen was reunited with her mother on Easter Sunday for the first time in three months. Jackie Fortin revealed details about the reunion on the 'FreeCassandra' Facebook page.  

'What a feeling to hold her and tell her I love her! She greeted me by running down the hallway yelling mom with her arms wide open!' she wrote.

'This is a very special Easter Sunday.' 

In March, Cassandra told NBC she had not been allowed to see or speak to her mother since the New Year. 

Cassandra gave a list of people who were allowed to visit her to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), but said she had yet to see her mother or her boyfriend.

'For the most part I don't get many visitors,' she wrote in an interview over Facebook chat.

Cassandra told NBC that the guard who stood outside her door had been removed, but that she was still only allowed to visit the cafeteria when escorted by a nurse, patient care assistant or child-welfare official.    

The teenager insisted that she was prepared to try chemotherapy, but only after exploring other 'alternative' methods first.

Jackie told NBC Connecticut that her daughter has long held the belief that she does not want 'poison' in her body.   

Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in January that the state wasn't violating Cassandra's rights by forcing her to undergo treatment.

In January Cassandra called the experience a 'continuous nightmare'.

'It's disgusting that I'm fighting for a right that I and anyone in my situation should already have,' she wrote in the Hartford Courant

'This is my life and my body, not DCF's and not the state's. I am a human — I should be able to decide if I do or don't want chemotherapy. 

'Whether I live 17 years or 100 years should not be anyone's choice but mine.'

Cassandra announced in a Facebook post on Saturday that she had 'less than 48 hours left in the hospital' and that she 'couldn't be happier

Cassandra announced in a Facebook post on Saturday that she had 'less than 48 hours left in the hospital' and that she 'couldn't be happier

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