Meet the Models: Cassandra (Cassy) Villalta

Cassy Villalta beams with positivity. One would never know the intense decade long journey she has been on to now call herself a two-time breast cancer survivor. At just 35, with a 3 and 5 year old at home, Cassy was diagnosed with grade 3 ductal carcinoma. She would go on to have a lumpectomy, chemo, radiation and immunotherapy. It was grueling schedule, but Cassy remained upbeat throughout: “as long as it was fixable, I kept a smile on my face.” Her main priority was her children and ensuring their lives were uninterrupted by her diagnosis. She remains steadfast in her motivation to have her children’s memories of growing up not be tainted with images of her sick.

Her desire to keep their lives steady increased when, in June of last year, the cancer came back in the same spot. Cassy would go on to have a double mastectomy in August of 2021. A short time later, she had her implants removed: “breasts aren’t a big thing for me. Implants just weren’t for me.” She feels relieved now that she feels less discomfort, but her diagnosis became more complicated when her team at Dana Farber found a spot on her ribcage. It technically makes her stage four. Given its proximity to the heart and lungs, a biopsy remains impossible. Cassy jokes, “it’s like a double edged sword. I need it to spread so we can biopsy, yet I don’t want it to spread.” Nonetheless, Cassy began stage four treatment last October and this April scans came back to reveal the cancer stabilized. It’s positive news among increased uncertainty.

Throughout it all, Cassy remains strikingly positive: “I am very public with my diagnosis. I am very out there and open about it. Sharing my positivity and outlook seems to inspire people with struggles in their life. I know it stinks, but for me it’s never really been about that.” Cassy acknowledges that it is a tough balancing act to manage her emotions, thoughts and feelings of those around her, but in the end, she just hopes to be a positive role model: “everything happens for a reason, so even though it might be unfortunate at the beginning, you will be able to help others with your story.” She hopes her story may encourage women to get annual mammograms, or remind others how grateful they should be for their health. In all, she sees her story as serving a greater purpose: “it’s an opportunity to educate and teach others.”

If there was any question to Cassy’s selflessness, when asked about treatment she says she entered a few clinical trials because “women before me have helped pave the way, so if I can help to build knowledge and treatment around breast cancer, it is my way of helping other women in the future.” True to form, Cassy does not dwell on her diagnosis, or let cancer consume her. Instead, she remains determined to provide a normal childhood for her two children and stay mindful of the present moment. It’s why she is excited to hit the runway this fall with her mom and daughter. For Cassy, it will continue her positive legacy and make certain that her breast cancer diagnosis is not defined, in her children’s mind, as a mom who is sick or on the couch, but instead who is smiling and dancing down the runway.