Amanda is an 8-year cancer thriver from Pennsylvania now living with metastatic disease. We asked her to share a little about her journey and what has helped her along the way. Amanda will be writing a quarterly blog for YSC.
In 2006, at the age of 28, when I laid on my 4yr old daughter’s bedroom floor so that the transition to her new bedroom in our new house wasn’t scary for her, I accidently brushed my breast with my hand and felt what seemed like a grape under my skin. Little did I know, it was going to lead me on a journey that would bring so much good to my life. After the initial shock of hearing the words YOU HAVE CANCER and learning about treatment options and side effects, I knew that I needed to reflect on my life and remember what got me to where I am in my life today: My Attitude; My Determination; My Friends; and My Family.
My Attitude – I’m sure that my mom could vouch that my attitude would not let cancer have a chance. Sorry mom for everything that I put you through growing up… whether it was my stubbornness, my positive mind frame, or not letting anyone or anything tell me how or what to do.
My Determination – When I was growing up, I played sports. In the beginning, I wasn’t very good, but I was tall so I made a good basketball player. During my sophomore year of high school, my Coach instilled in me that I needed to keep practicing and seek out any opportunity to shoot hoops to make me a better player. During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, that is what I did. Through my work and determination, I became a top scorer on my team, set a school record for foul shot percentage, my school finally made a post-season debut in its conference, and I received 20 recruitment letters from colleges to play basketball.
My Friends – How they showed up: going with me to a medical appointment, a biopsy of my breast, a night out, a Toby Keith concert, a trip to Jamaica and eating fresh pineapple, trying to find a day of the week and a time that fits both our schedules so that we can stay on an exercise plan, a summer tubing party in Lancaster, or a friend that offers to hold the bucket because we both know that I held it plenty of times for her, my friends, or as I like to refer to them as my “boobies” have always been there to offer a hand and to let me know that cancer didn’t have much of a chance.
My Family – The ones that kept my mind at ease, tolerated my chemo crankiness and helped me build the foundation that I needed to get over all the bumps and barriers that life has thrown at me.
I will be the first to admit that the treatments were not fun, and the side effects I endured sucked. But I knew that they were just another bump in the road or foul on the court that I would have to look back on to become a stronger, wiser model for young women in the future. My life continued on as a mom, sister, girlfriend, daughter, and the fact that I was diagnosed with cancer did not stop me from living life because I did not let it. Instead, I used it to help me help others. I became involved with the American Cancer Society, Young Survival Coalition, the Cancer Support Community, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley, For Pete’s Sake – a cancer respite vacation foundation, and the Get In Touch Foundation — A FREE program to help educate girls in grades 5-12 about breast health. My involvement in all of these programs opened my eyes and led me to meet so many inspiring women and gave me a list of amazing opportunities that I am now able to share with others and help them along their journey.
But this wasn’t the end of my cancer journey. In 2010, cancer made another attempt to sideline me. Being almost 5 years out from my initial diagnosis, I had no thought in my mind that I would have cancer again. Awakened in the middle of the night from a horrible pain in my side, I drove myself to the hospital and was sent home with a diagnosis of kidney stones. I endured a torturous week of jury duty with this pain, and the following Sunday, when doubled over in pain in the middle of the aisle at Giant, I had Mark (my boyfriend, now husband) drop me off at the ER. After further review, the kidney stones ended up as tumors…in three-fourths of my liver, in my pancreas, wrapped around my spinal cord and in my bones. Later, I found out the cancer was also in my ovaries. Wow! I thought…what other cancer organizations are there for me to get involved with?
Taking what I learned the first time around, the positive attitude that I kept, the determination and strength that got me through the side effects, and the support of my family and friends there was no doubt in my mind that the cancer didn’t have what was needed to knock me down. I can say that I secretly thanked cancer this time around because it led to a marriage proposal, a free dress from Kleinfeld’s Bridal, a fully expense-paid family respite vacation, appearance in some TV commercials and a stronger bond with the man that has completed my life.
So, now I know I will face this disease for the rest of my life. But it knows that it will not beat me. It may take up space in my body, but it does not get my love, my healthy cells or my mind.