A Year ago today my son's finacee Amanda passed away, she was 22 years old and died of thymic carcinoma, cancer of the thymus gland. I sent this letter to our local paper and they never printed it, so I am going to publish it here in remembrance of Amanda:
A True Love Story
Many years ago I sat crying at a drive-in theater watching Erich Segal's Love Story. Later I told my self, "thank goodness it is only fiction." I have now lived through the real thing, a real true Love Story. It has broken my heart, yet left me inspired, proud and with heroes in my life.
I would like to tell you a little about those heroes with the hope it will inspire you also. It may leave a tear in your eye and hopefully a good feeling in your heart.
I was introduced to a young girl named Amanda about four years ago by my son Cody. She was beautiful both inside and out. She loved life, writing, Elvis, Dolphins, and fishing. She adored her mom, sister and nephew. Most of all she loved my son. She was going to become my daughter and I came to love her very much.
A tough childhood did not deter her dreams. Her Dad passed away when she was a toddler, she lived in virtual poverty much of her life, but she had ambition. Graduating from high school and going on to college, she had great dreams for the future. Getting her degree, becoming a journalist, writing a book, marrying her love Cody and having my grandbabies.
Some of her dreams had already come true. Visiting Graceland, petting a dolphin, seeing the ocean, visiting New York, seeing the Mall of America. She caught her first fish last summer on the Fourth of July, she had dreamed of that for a year after I had introduced her to my favorite sport. You should have seen that smile when she reeled it in and held it up for Cody to see. It was a wonderful thing to witness. She landed a job as a reporter and got to see her nephew grow for a year. But most of all she had met her soulmate and best friend and was able to spend four great years with him.
This October she became ill and was diagnosed with Thymic Carcinoma. She believed in her doctors and believed if she did everthing they said, she would overcome the cancer and be able to get on with her life. Amanda did everything they told her she needed to do. All the chemo and radiation, the draining of fluid from her lungs and heart. She endured such pain that I cannot begin to imagine what she went through. The body aches that the chemo caused. An esophagus so burned by the radiation that even a teaspoon of applesauce would cause such pain she would have to scream. Constant vomiting from the chemo and fluid build up from the cancer that caused her lymph nodes to quit working. The weakness so bad that just walking from her car to her Mom's door took all the strength she had. She lost all her hair, had to be on oxygen most of the day and lost forty-five pounds. Yet through it all I never heard her complain. I have never known anyone as brave, strong and tough as Amanda.
Cody stayed by her side through it all. He proposed to her with a full page ad in the newspaper and gave her the engagement ring he bought by saving up for almost a year. He told her he would never leave her side no matter what and he didn't. With a maturity way beyound his twenty-two years he cared for Amanda the best that he could while working full time and going to school. He was compassionate and sympathetic when she needed that. He made sure she took her meds, waited on her when she needed it, fed her when she couldn't feed herself, ran her bath, washed her clothes and did everything he could to make her as comfortable as possible. One night Amanda vomited after taking a pain medication, afraid that the pill may have come back up and that Amanda would have to wait four hours to take another for the horrific pain she was in, Cody dug through the vomit with his bare hands to find the pill. He became her rock and she was the love of his life.
The Thursday before Valentine's Day Amanda returned to the hospital to have fluid drained again, it had become just a routine thing by this time. She would only be there a few days the doctors had said. Cody bought her a necklace for Valentine's Day and stayed in town through the weekend figuring she would be released on Monday. Amanda never got to wear the necklace. The oncologist told
Cody on Monday that the cancer was just taking over her body and that they should prepare for the worse. And they did, with such strength and grace for their twenty-two years that it was heart breaking. Amanda decided to give Cody the power of attorney to make the decision when the time came, if it did. And then they had five days together with Cody never leaving her side. She told him she wasn't afraid, she would get to see her Dad, her Grandma and Elvis. She told him even if the cancer had gone away and then came back she could not go through this again and again. They had five days together to make their peace and tell each other all that needed to be said. On Friday the cancer had taken over both lungs and the doctors put her on the respirator. She fought on for two days, the doctors told Cody that on Tuesday he would have to make the decision. A little before midnight Cody told Amanda he loved her and what he was going to have to do the next day and how hard it was going to be and she let go and died peacefully so he would never have to live with that decision.
Amanda lost her battle on Monday February 23rd, Cody made all the funeral arrangements, picked out the burial plot and worked day and night on a video tribute to her life for her services. Amanda was buried on Saturday, February 28th,
Cody's twenty-third birthday. He hopes that someday he will be able to celebrate his birthday without the thoughts of his love being buried on that day.
These two brave young people have put me to shame for all the silly complaints I have made over the years about trivial things that happens in ones life. I have been inspired by Amanda and Cody's bravery and strength. I am proud to have been a part of Amanda's life and proud that my son turned out to be so wonderful. They are both my heroes. Unsung heroes, known but by few, but heroes nonetheless.
Amanda Kay Duty ~~ 1981-2004