Whoever said winning isn’t everything never had cancer. For Amanda Remington it means beating Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Cancer for the fourth time. It also means getting to be the wife and mother she always dreams of being.
Amanda’s hair is thinning fast now and she knows the time has come for her to once again shave her head. She grabs the razor and hands it to her husband. She wants him to do the honors. Amanda sits in front of the mirror, grabs her phone, and turns on the camera. She is going to share this private moment with the world. Her battle face is on, and her husband Robbie stands behind her. His face is matter of fact; he knows this is something that just has to be done. Amanda wraps a white hospital towel around her shoulders. She sits in a chair and leans over the sink. The razor sweeps effortlessly over her head and her strawberry blond hair begins falling off in chunks landing lightly in the sink in front of her.
She posts it to her Facebook page in hopes that it will inspire others. She titles her video “yep, he loves me.” The video was followed by picture of her husband kissing the top of her bald head.
Robbie is working hard to make sure Amanda and his daughter are taken care of. He is doing all he can to provide and be a great husband and father. When he found out she relapsed for the fourth time he was sad but said “I guess we have been through it so many times it was not a shock. The hardest part was when they said the transplant only has a 40 percent chance of working. That was a lot to take in.”
Robbie emphasized the importance of help from the church and family he said “If it was not for family keeping Skylar, and the church helping with meals and such, none of this would be possible.”
It is days before Amanda’s battle. She eats anything she wants, especially sweets and she enjoys herself at a Thunder basketball game. She plays her piano, revelation song, this will be here battle cry. Most importantly, she gets to say goodbye to her 10-month-old daughter, Skylar, one more time. She rocks her baby until she falls asleep. When Skylar wakes up her mom will not be home for a month.
In the coming days, Amanda will do a lot of sleeping while inside her body a battle rages. Her immune system is depleting because of the high dose chemo. She can no longer have physical contact with anyone even mildly sick. She cannot see her daughter, but she can occasionally see her husband, grandma, and even a few friends. She is a long drive from home, and is often fighting loneliness and boredom.
Her hospital room is small. There is one chair, her bed, and an inconveniently shaped bathroom. There is one window, the only reminder of the world outside her battle. Out that window she can see the capital of Oklahoma, and the Indian statute on top of the building. She hoped to have her piano to help her pass the time, but her room was just too small she will have to wait. She hopes the next song she plays will feel like victory not war.
The chemo begins taking effect, Amanda feels nauseous, tired, and she has painful sores developing in her mouth. This chemo treatment is stronger than any other treatment she has previously endured. It is painful and draining and yet her battle has just begun.
Beside her bed is a poster cut out of her daughter. She calls it her makeshift Skylar. The little girl has a red dress and a big smile. It serves as a reminder of what is at stake, and why it is so important she wins.
It is the calm before the storm. Amanda gets one day off before she starts the transfusion. Chemo was conquered, and she is about to begin the toughest most important battle she has fought thus far.
It is transfusion time. Beside her bed hangs a red bag and a white bag. Tubes from these bags run to Amanda’s body where the blood and marrow will enter like an invasion of soldiers. The stem cells are going in, and it is important that they are accepted by her body. Between feelings of sickness and spiking fevers the transplant is very difficult for Amanda.
The transplant is over, and the waiting game begins.
The next day for Amanda is scary. She is beginning to have heart problems. Her head is hurting. She asks her friends for prayer on her Facebook page by saying “I’m having some serious heart complications so please pray for me.”
The doctors are working hard to find the right combination of drugs to make her feel better. They succeed Amanda stabilizes and they are considering a CT scan of her head to make sure everything is ok. It’s Valentine’s Day, and all Amanda wants is a non-eventful day. Here spirits are up and she says very matter of fact that “Boxes of chocolate should be a mandatory script for all hospital patients today!”
Eight days after the transplant she hears three words she has been waiting patiently to hear “The marrow is engrafting.” This means her body is accepting the stem cells.
She continues to fight and it has been a total of 23 days. She calls her daughter to tell her that she will be coming home tomorrow. Everything is moving faster than the doctors predicted.
Amanda can hardly contain how anxious she is to get home to her daughter. She is counting the hours, and the drive cannot go fast enough.
When Amanda gets back she stays with her grandma who takes care of her. She can see her daughter; however she has to wear a mask. When her daughter saw her she laughed a lot and reached toward Amanda to hold her. She kept touching Amanda’s face and kissing her.
Amanda said “She’s very happy I’m home. I can’t take complete care of her, I’m not allowed to change diapers or give her baths so my aunt is taking care of her a lot. I see her almost every day but I’m really ready for my family to be back together.”
Her immune system is still weak so she cannot go anywhere public. She does not like wearing the mask. However, she has to wear one for the next 100 days. Amanda said people notice her with her mask and “It’s very annoying and I’m not someone who likes much attention and of course people stare.” If her healing keeps moving fast she may not have to wait 100 days.
Wednesday, March 10 is Amanda’s birthday, and she receives a wonderful gift. She goes to her doctor to have blood work tested and she is doing better than any doctor would have predicted. Happy Birthday to Amanda she may go home without a mask to kiss her daughter. It has only been 11 days.
Amanda’s battle is not over. She still has days of struggle, fears of getting sick, and just dealing with life in a body that has not regained all its strength.
For Amanda failure is not an option, losing meant leaving her very young daughter without a mother, and her husband without a wife. Amanda looks forward to playing her piano again, going to church and being a part of the worship team. The first song she will play is “God I look to you,” her victory song.
Last year, 9,290 people were diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer, Amanda was one of them. Of them, 8,110 patients will sing their victory song, Amanda is one of them.