When Amanda had her first surgery to remove the cancerous tumor, the doctors also removed her colon, which resulted in the doctor having to reconstruct her small intestine and her digestive system. But something still wasn’t right.

Amanda would be hospitalized 10 more times after the initial surgery because her intestine was kinked, causing her to get nauseous and vomit her food. The doctors told her that her symptoms weren’t physical.

“That reconstruction never really sat well with me,” Weaver said. “I kept telling the doctor that something isn’t right, and they told me I had anxiety.”

She was in Connecticut for a weekend and had severe symptoms of an obstruction – again – and had emergency surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital. It was an emergency situation, and the doctor stabilized Amanda, but when she woke he gave her news that was both frustrating and a relief.

“The doctor told me that I wasn’t finished,” Amanda remembers. “The first doctors did the reconstruction wrong, and there was a knot in my intestines, which made sense because nothing was getting through. The doctor at Yale reconstructed everything all over again.”

Three more surgeries later, and Amanda was on her way back to good health. Her cancer actually made a positive impact on her life. It caused her to change her career path, and she turned her ordeal into motivation to help others.

“After my first year of graduate school, I was doing my first clinical rotation that summer,” Amanda said. “When I started chemotherapy, I didn’t have energy to do anything…I’d go to chemo one day and I’d go do my clinical rotation the next day. When I was receiving chemo, I saw how everyone struggled, and I saw how cancer and treatment was affecting their lives. Then I’d go to clinical, and people were complaining about a sprained ankle.

“I was thinking, you don’t even know what I saw yesterday,” Weaver continued. “I didn’t like it (physical therapy) anymore, I didn’t enjoy being there, I fell out of love with it. Through my treatment, I had a fond appreciation for the nurses, and I talked to a lot of nurses who treated me. I decided that when I got healthy enough, that was my career path. I love my job.”

Amanda enrolled in an advanced nursing program at Johns Hopkins University, and she earned her Bachelor’s degree in nursing. She’s an oncology nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital working in the inpatient hematology unit, primarily with leukemia patients.

When she was engaged in her fight against cancer, Amanda’s mother searched for support groups for her. She found a number of groups for children with cancer and for older people with cancer, but none for young adults. The search continued, and Amanda finally connected with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults in Baltimore.

The Ulman Fund was started by a former college soccer player who found himself in similar circumstances to Amanda. The group holds athletic events and happy hours geared toward raising awareness and raising funds for research. Amanda recently completed a run from Baltimore to Key West with the group.

“Now that I’m healthy, I feel extremely blessed,” Amanda concluded. “Going through radiation, I was sitting next to people who are no longer with us. I see what cancer does to so many people’s lives, and I feel so blessed to be here, and to be in health today. That’s why I pay it forward.”


Next week: Your first dose of Bulletin Board Material