Cassandra Good Feather was 21 and carrying a baby boy in her womb when she died suddenly on February 19 at the University of Colorado Hospital, in Aurora, Colorado due to what is believed to be an aggressive and rapid chemotherapy-related secondary infection.
“Everything is still really hard because I miss my daughter so much. We were really close,” said Doug Good Feather, Cassie’s father and known in pow wow circles as a fancy dancer. “I am still questioning what happened. I know it was complications, but I am confused in this area.”
Cassie, who also went by her Lakota name Wambli Chan’te’ Was’te’ Win, meaning Good-hearted Eagle Woman, was diagnosed belatedly of leukemia. Her father said the pain on the left side of her lungs, back and leg were dismissed as nothing serious by other hospitals.
It was only on the first of February—after father and daughter went to Denver General Hospital and asked for a thorough examination—did they know that she had an aggressive form of leukemia. She was later transferred to the University of Colorado Hospital.
Good Feather said the leukemia was curable and her brothers already agreed to donate their bone marrow. With the unexpected and sudden death, her family has ordered an autopsy.
A veteran of two combat tours in Iraq, Good Feather said he recognized his daughter’s courage and she was a warrior to him. “I’m so proud of my daughter for what she believed and stood for. She was willing to give up her own life to save the life of her baby.”
He said his daughter refused to take any medication that would be harmful to her 21-and-a-half-week old baby, who was named Zuya’ Okitika or Goes to War With Courage in Lakota. His father was from Pakistan and goes by the name Auyb or Fighting a War to Remain Faithful to His Creator.
Good Feather remembers Cassie as spiritual, caring, with hobbies that included writing, dancing the jingle dress and beading. She was about to go to college and take up youth counseling. In her youth, he said, she had troubles and her mentors taught her good things in life.
“She was always smiling and laughing. She uplifted everyone who came around her. She would say, ‘just kidding,’ and laugh,” said Good Feather.
“Cassie was one of the most brave, positive, funniest, loving, caring, unselfish people I knew. She was my best friend, but we were like sisters,” said Megan Sennie.
“She was a beautiful soul who would speak up when she felt the need to and would listen when you needed her to. I admired her fearlessness,” she added.
Sennie said she loved her family and friends and even when she didn’t have much to give, she gave. Aside from her father, (her mother, Marybeth Spurbeck, passed away two years ago), Cassie had three brothers and one sister, Justus, Nicolas, Jesse and April Otterrobe. She had two adopted sisters and three younger sisters from her mom’s previous relationship.
How does one move on in the face of tragedy? Good Feather said it’s a struggle everyday but he is comforted by what his elder told him—that Cassie’s death was a blessing in disguise because if she were alive her treatment could have prolonged her suffering and her leukemia could have kept coming back.
Following Lakota ways, Good Feather said he cut his long hair and will mourn for a year, after which he will honor Cassie with a “big memorial.”
“Some people pass away and you feel bad because you know they didn’t live life how they really wanted to, but Cassie did. She gave love and attention to the things that mattered, not material things,” said Sennie.
The family had originally set up “Make Safe the Path: Support the Good Feather Family Defeat Leukemia,” and indiegogo site, to provide moral and financial support for Cassie’s hospitalization. They are now using the funds to help pay for expenses related to funeral services.
“I would like to say thanks to everyone who sent prayers, and who donated to our family. It really helped out in her funeral expense. I couldn’t do it without the help of all the people who cared for my family,” Good Feather said.