3 min read
If there’s one phrase to sum up Amanda Bell’s life, it’s “living out loud.” She’s a happily married mom of daughters, a self-described girly-girl who loves black lipstick, a well placed F-bomb, bikinis and Jesus. She’s outgoing and bold, with a contagious laugh and enthusiasm for life — even though it’s uncertain just how long hers will be.
Amanda has an incurable form of cancer called Peritoneal Mesothelioma, and the fact it was discovered at all is nothing short of a miracle. Although they had thought they were done having children, Amanda and her husband found out she was pregnant with her third child after a memorable date night. They decided to name her Giavanna and call her Gia, short for ‘God Is Alive’. The name proved to be fortuitous. “My daughter saved my life because it was during the C-section that the doctor discovered the mass. After the delivery, doctors went to stitch her up and found the mass on the omentum - a layer of the peritoneum which surrounds the abdominal organs like a flap.” Two weeks later, a biopsy revealed the mass was malignant.
My abdominal organs were removed from my body, “burned out” with chemo and put back in me. It really was the journey to hell and back.”
The prognosis for Peritoneal Mesothelioma is grim — most people are given just one year to live — and Amanda’s doctors are still unsure of how she even contracted it. “This type of cancer is usually found in older men who work on ships. The only thing we can surmise is that maybe I ingested asbestos as a child. All I know is that if it wasn’t for that pregnancy, the cancer would have killed me.”
Even though her cancer was found early enough to take aggressive action, Amanda still feared for her life. She underwent a grueling 11 hour “high stakes” surgery in Washington DC when Gia was just 3 months old — and spent a month there recovering, followed by six months of chemotherapy. She lost all her hair, dealt with PTSD and dove into a deep depression. “There were weeks I just laid in bed and cried. I really thought I was dying. I didn’t believe I would have a future — I just gave up, because I didn’t know what else to do.”
Amanda is now 44 and her surgery was six years ago. She says the biggest turning points in her journey have come as a result of helping others walking the same road. “I was mentoring a man going through the same surgery I had, with the same doctor. It was like an out-of-body experience. I kept visualizing myself on that table, but this time it wasn’t me — it was him. I realized I wasn’t the victim anymore. Now when I get a call, I can say, ‘it’s going to be okay, there’s hope,’ and I’m there to walk alongside them.”
I’m proud of [my scars] them. They’re a sign that I was cut open, but also that I’ve healed.”
And about her scars? “I’m proud of them. They’re a sign that I was cut open, but also that I’ve healed. I used to think people cared what you look like in a bikini, but you know, they really don’t. I think beauty is defined differently by everyone, so stop being so critical of yourself. Let you be you. You don’t know what other peoples’ clothes are hiding, what their stories are. It’s the same for me — my body went through something so horrific and I’m still here. We don’t know when the cancer will come back, but I’m grateful to be alive. I just have to roll with that. If you’re facing a challenge, my best advice is, don’t be anxious and don’t let your mind wander. Stay present and stay in the moment, otherwise you’ll fall into stress and worry about tomorrow. You’re going to do your best if you stay right here, right now. We can’t avoid horrible things — but we can find a place of peace in them. I believe we are under the shelter of God’s wings. Even if something really bad happens, He’s going to protect us and help us through it. So live your life like there is no tomorrow. Be present. Be a rockstar today.”