They say cancer is a family disease. For Amara, nothing could be truer. Her cancer diagnosis was given to her entire family this past February. For these past ten months, they have been by her side every step of the way.
Amara, 14, had always been a healthy and active girl, involved in many sports and recreational events. So it was strange for her parents to see her limping and in significant pain last fall. She soldiered on though and participated in her activities. In early January the pain in her right hip and knee became much more intense. Her doctor referred her for an orthopaedic consult.
She and her family of four are from the Swan River Valley area. Amara and her mom made the five hour drive to Winnipeg for what they thought would be a "normal" assessment. Instead they received terrible news from the surgeon - there was a large blurry mass in her right hip and pelvic area.
Shock started to set in. The next few hours were a whirlwind of scary and painful events for Amara.
Tests, blood work, CT scan and MRI. Then the dreaded diagnosis - osteosarcoma. Amara had a rare and very difficult to treat cancer.
As her mom Lee-Anne reflects, how could this be happening to their healthy, gentle, kind, beautiful, intelligent and athletic daughter?
"The next hours and days were a blur of tears, having to tell my husband, son and the rest of our family this awful news over the phone," says Lee-Anne.
She immediately began an intravenous chemotherapy regimen that was very intense and required hospital admissions.
The treatment was incredibly hard, as was being away from her dad and brother, extended family and friends. She missed them and everything about home.
Given the rarity of her cancer, Amara's biopsy samples were sent to specialists in Toronto and Vancouver. The genetic reports they received helped inform her treatment. CancerCare Manitoba is fortunate and proud to be a member of a cross-Canada initiative treating the most difficult cancer cases. Donations to the Foundation help make this possible for Amara and other young people.
Amara's cancer experience is so incredibly difficult. Despite this, she and her family warm the hearts of everyone who meets them.
"Amara's life and that of our family will never be the same. Through all these months Amara has remained exceptionally strong which has made the journey a little easier for all of us," comment Lee-Anne and her husband Blair.
Treatment plans for Amara and other young people like her are based on research and clinical trials which are funded in large part by CancerCare Manitoba Foundation. Thanks to the amazing generosity and kindness of Hockey Fights Cancer supporters all these years, trials are available in Manitoba for children with cancer.
This November marks the Winnipeg Jets' eighth Hockey Fights Cancer campaign. Fans have generously raised $765,000 over the past seven years to help local kids, just like Amara, receive care right in Manitoba. Fans can join the fight at the Jets' Hockey Fights Cancer game this Saturday Nov. 23 where they can take part in fundraising activities including raffle tickets for the chance to win the players' warm-up worn jerseys, and the in-game auction featuring one-of-a-kind plates designed by the Jets wives and girlfriends. Tickets are available at WinnipegJets.com/TICKETS and for more information on fundraising opportunities, visit WinnipegJets.com/HFC.