(Please note that if you donate on Caring Bridge it's going directly to Caring Bridge aka no proceeds will go to our family.)
(Update from Amy Walker: We have set up a fundraiser through GoFundMe to support Amanda and her family. You can find the link by clicking on "Ways to Help" above or use this link: https://gofund.me/1e2b4aa3
to take you there . Thank you for your love and support.)
Hello! It’s me, Amanda. I will be writing this first part about my story because I’m sure you are wondering what all led up to this point. In addition, I will be sharing about how I am doing (as well as the family), treatment, and maybe a few other things as well. I also want all who visit this site to know, more than ever, I will be sharing my real self with you because I believe in being vulnerable, honest and authentic. This also includes my world-view as a follower of Christ. I am not trying to shove religion down anyone’s throat, I am simply sharing my heart. If anything you read feels “preachy” just know I also believe in free will and you’re free to believe whatever you want and I hold love, dignity and honor for you. Also, this is long. Don’t feel the need to read everything – choose your own adventure!
A little about me: I am 37 years old and currently live in Fayetteville, AR (since 2015) with my husband Austin (16 years in June), my son Wyatt (14), and daughter Claire (9). I work with a Christian non-profit organization, The Navigators, as a college minster to students at the University of Arkansas. I just finished up a few classes last year from Emporia State University to receive my BFA in painting. We’ve lived in Emporia, KS, Denver, CO, Manhattan, KS and here.
August 2021: Our job with Navigators means we are on campus at the beginning of each school year meeting incoming students. It was at this time I noticed I was experiencing high levels of fatigue. I thought it was from being out in the sun and not staying hydrated. But it lingered longer than I thought it should, so I went and saw a family doctor to see if I was low in iron or something else.
(Note: as a Midwesterner who has lived in this city for seven years I had yet to visit the doctor and had just been utilizing urgent care when things were desperate. Don’t worry – our kids go to the doctor and dentist regularly. This just applied to me and my unconscious philosophy that “rubbing dirt on it” would do the trick.)
My newly acquired doctor did all the right things and asked all the right questions. She ran my blood work and the only thing that came back was that I was low in vitamin D, which I received a script for.
November 2021: At a work conference I started noticing that my stomach/digestion was in regular pain and I had one night in particular where I asked myself “what is going on with my body?” The female body, in all its glory, also had me wondering if my issues were related to my cycle. I just really didn’t know. But I did decide I would remove dairy from my diet because I thought it was connected (I did not partake in the goodness of cheese or ice cream for a solid three months – I hated it).
Early December 2021: Pain in my lower abdominal was continuing to persist. While I was fine gritting my teeth and baring it, my kind husband urged me to go to urgent care to see what was ailing me. They asked good questions, drew blood, took a urine sample – and they concluded that I had a UTI (and possible kidney stones) and sent me home with horse pills to clear up the infection. I did not feel a huge change in my pain, but I thought if I had kidney stones who knew how long those would take to pass.
January 2022: I was still struggling with enough pain to get me back into my doctor’s office. I met with my regular doctor again and asked about my diet (because it felt like my gut was inflamed) and she again asked all the right questions. One of the biggest tells for things like colon cancer is a change in your bowels (like blood in the stool, inconsistencies with going, etc.) and I had zero changes with that. From where I described the pain she told me to make an appointment with my gynecologist to see if it was connected with an ovarian cyst or something of that nature.
End of January – April 2022: (I will spare you every detail.)
· I go to the gynecologist. They order an ultrasound.
· Ultrasound detects some questionable things on my right ovaries. They order an MRI focusing on that part of my body.
· MRI comes back with the things on my right ovaries being “resolved” but there’s some fluid build-up on my left ovary AND they see the spot on my liver (4.7cm). I get an antibiotic in the form of a shot and an oral prescription to deal with possible infection on my left ovary AND they order another MRI focused on my liver.
· Liver MRI is inconclusive for determining if the mass is benign. I still am having daily pain even with two types of antibiotic. My doctor refers me to a surgeon.
· The surgeon received the report but not the images when I have my appointment with him. He said he’d discuss my case with his colleagues at the hospital as well as the radiologist to move forward with a plan.
· April 6th – I am scheduled for a biopsy. It was terrible. 0/10 WOULD NOT RECOMMEND. But we were glad they were doing the most conclusive thing to find out what the mass was.
April 11th – The day we received the news: Driving to the follow up appointment we felt hopeful based off statistics, but I also had a feeling that our lives may never be the same. We were in the examination room for all of five minutes before the surgeon walked in. Like a good doctor he was kind but cut right to chase and told us, “I’m sorry but I don’t have good news. You have colon cancer.” I, of course, asked, “Then why is it in my liver?” He explained that the pathologist determined the mass in my liver is from my colon which means that the cancer has spread. Another shockwave. To say that we were shocked would be an understatement. My physical response came in the form of feeling like I was going to throw up. Austin turned white as a sheet and stood up and started pacing the room. We asked a few more questions. He mentioned it was at least at stage III and he stepped out for minute (probably seeing that we needed help and space to process). He came back in and told us to follow him. He walked us about 15 paces to the entrance of the oncology facility (Highlands Oncology, in Fayetteville, AR), walked us in and handed us off to the kind and capable staff team/doctors there and said if we needed anything he was available to help. There we were walked around in a zombie state, and got the tour we never wanted. Everyone was wonderful. Multiple people prayed with us and everyone was so caring. We ended up meeting the woman who would become my oncologist. And she told us that she had looked over my scans and by definition I had stage IV colon cancer. She said I would need more scans done, blood drawn, etc. to find out the scope of my condition. I made more appointments, had blood drawn, and we drove home.
April 19th – I received what I call my “star-trek scan” aka a PET scan and a CT scan. This gave them imaging from my head to my hips. I was just praying, with the contrasting and radioactive stuff they pumped into my body to identify the fast-growing cells AKA cancer, that it wouldn’t be so bad that my insides would light up like a LITE-BRITE. But we received what I would consider good news yesterday from the oncologist:
I have the liver mass that we already knew about (4.7cm). I have another mass also in my liver (2cm). I have a 3.7x3.2 cm mass in my colon in my left “upper quadrant” (to be honest I don’t 100% know what that means) AND they are keeping a watchful eye on my lymph nodes that are near that site. I asked my oncologist if we could downgrade the diagnosis to a lesser stage because all my other major organs look clear (brain, lungs, kidneys, etc.). She said no that it is still considered stage IV. BUT she did also say that this is treatable and can be put into remission. YAY!!! (I will share about the treatment plan in another section.)
Look below for part 2