On July 4, 2022, Kasey Altman, a Jewish cancer advocate who documented her health and life on TikTok, passed away. She was just 26 years old.
After doctors initially refused to take Kasey’s health concerns seriously, this remarkable young woman was first diagnosed with stage four alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, or ARMS, in October 2020. Soon after, she began using her TikTok account (@kasey.altman) to speak on her experience living with sarcoma, advocate for change in the US healthcare system, empower fellow patients and challenge misconceptions about cancer and disabilities. She quickly gained attention on the platform, and at the time of publication, has an audience of 63.7K and millions of likes. Her videos consistently showcased her intelligence, poise, hilarity and honesty in the face of chemotherapy, surgery, two reoccurrences of cancer, testing positive for COVID and other health complications.
Her content was also unmistakably Jewish, with that part of her identity often coming into her videos through humor. One TikTok with nearly 12K likes jokes that telling her Jewish parents she had a tattoo was harder than telling them she had stage four cancer. Another shows Kasey’s unfiltered joy at receiving a care package from her grandmother which included the book “How to Raise a Jewish Dog.” Kasey also took the time to speak more seriously on religion and her identity as a non-religious Jew when Christian proselytizing occurred in her comment section.
As Kasey herself often reminded us, she was so much more than her cancer.
Before receiving her diagnosis, the San Diego native played Division I volleyball at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. However, due to a season-ending injury, Kasey ultimately transferred to Penn State, where she graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications. During this time, she traveled the world and documented her experience via Penn State World Campus’s blog. Per her TikTok, Kasey was able to visit 40+ countries during her life. After college, Kasey went on to work in ad sales at Google and started a podcast, The Reroute, in 2021. That same year, she founded The Kasey Altman Research Fund through Rein in Sarcoma, whose mission is “to educate the public and medical professionals about sarcomas, support patients and their loved ones, and fund research to develop new treatments and find a cure for sarcoma cancers.” Her book, “Everyone Listens When You’re Dying,” is scheduled to be published in 2023.
She is survived by her parents, sister Karli, boyfriend Darius and goldendoodle Willow.
“There is no greater ‘fuck you’ to pain or sorrow than living fully despite it,” Kasey once said in a TikTok. We are so grateful to have borne witness to just a fraction of Kasey’s very full life. May her memory be a blessing.
Donations in Kasey’s memory can be made to the Kasey Altman Research Fund, which gives 100% of proceeds directly to Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) research.