It took two years for my sister’s life to be taken from her by Ovarian cancer. In two years, I witnessed her heath decline so rapidly that none of us even had time to really process what was happening. It sounds cliché, but she and I thought we were too young to have to worry about cancer.
Amanda was a mother of three girls. She was only 37 years old when she got the news. We all sat in shock at the oncologists office when the doctor said the words “stage four” and stated a life expectancy of 1-2 years.
From the moment Amanda found out, she was thinking of others. Immediately her thoughts went towards her daughters. As the days passed, the reality set in and Amanda decided she would not be spending her valuable time fretting over what has yet to happen. She was determined to make the most of the time she had. Making memories and spreading hope became her mission.
At the most difficult time in her life, Amanda tapped into an inner strength that we all now know as #Amandastrong. She publicly shared her journey with the world, touching the lives of thousands of people, in hopes to advocate for women like her who were diagnosed too late. Amanda wanted every woman to know there is no screening method for Ovarian cancer like there is for breast or even cervical cancer. Because of this, and because the symptoms can be vague, ovarian cancer is often referred to as the silent killer. The majority of women who are diagnosed do not survive, and their timeline is much too short. One to five years is the average lifespan once diagnosed.
Despite her odds, Amanda continued to fight with dignity. She had many blows that threatened to take the wind out of her sails, but she continued to smile and inspire others. After unsuccessful surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, she shared her emotional stories on social media hoping to get the attention of the right people to save lives and raise funds for research.
Ovarian Cancer is often genetically linked. This is terrifying for our family of many females including Amanda’s own children. The genetic link may also affect men causing testicular cancer or other cancers. Luckily, Amanda tested negative for the BRCA gene, which is most common. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer research is underfunded, and there remains many unanswered questions about other genetic links to ovarian cancer. Despite being negative for the BRCA gene, the family risk is still considered substantially higher.
Amanda educated women on the warning signs, including GI issues, urinary problems, bloating, unexplained fatigue, and difficulty eating. In her case, it all started with what she described as period-like cramps that didn’t go away. She thought nothing of this, as she had always had stomach troubles. Over time, the pain increased until one day she felt as if she was having what felt like labor pains. At this point it, was too late.
Early signs are very difficult to determine at times. It is very important to listen to your body, and if you experience any of the symptoms for longer than three weeks, get checked out by a doctor. Be your own advocate, and insist you have a pelvic ultrasound. Many doctors will not suspect ovarian cancer if you are still of child bearing age. In Amanda’s case, her doctor was very surprised with this report from radiology. It took my sister months of going to her doctor with these symptoms and asking repeatedly for an ultrasound for this to occur.
Saying goodbye to Amanda was the hardest thing my family has ever had to do. Our hopes are that her story will inspire hope in women fighting ovarian cancer, save the lives of women who are not yet diagnosed and increase funding for screening methods and better treatment options.
Amanda’s wish was for people to know the facts and spread awareness. Please share this post and talk to your friends and family about ovarian cancer. Even if you didn’t know Amanda, let’s work together to help her in her mission and continue to be #Amandastrong. Together we can save lives of daughters, sisters, mothers and friends.