Our sweet, jovial little girl, Amanda, was 9 years old when she started experiencing severe headaches and flu-like symptoms. Our visits to the pediatrician all had the same outcomes – flu, stomach virus, possible anemia. Finally, just to appease me, her pediatrician pricked her finger. Amanda’s Hemoglobin was only 2.6, which couldn’t be, so he pricked her finger a second time and then a third. He could not believe it was that low so he ordered more blood drawn and sent us home stating he would call when the result where in. Within a few hours, I received a call from her doctor saying “Mrs. Tallman, I am sorry to tell you Amanda has leukemia and I have a room waiting for her at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Our lives changed forever in that moment.
I was in shock and disbelief – never had Cancer entered my mind. I remember standing there thinking “Oh My God, there must be a mistake”. I called my husband, telling myself to breath, knowing I must keep it together because my sweet Amanda was just in the next room. I gathered some toys and her favorite blanket, gave her a big hug, and told her that Mommy had to take her to the hospital because her blood was sick and we needed more tests. She cried, “No Mommy, no more needles”. The next few weeks were excruciating because all our family and friends could do was pray for a miracle while we waited for more test results. It was confirmed. Amanda had an advanced form of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and it would require 2½ years of Chemotherapy. And so our battle began.
Sadly, because Amanda’s white blood cell counts were so low resulting in numerous infections, the majority of our first 18 months were spent in the hospital. The pain she suffered with endless hours of screaming is a memory I will have forever in my heart. Insane is the only word I can use for the side effects Amanda endured. She started getting stronger, laughing and smiling, our last 18 months being better than the first. Our brave Amanda withstood 3 long years of intense chemotherapy and we were in remission! To celebrate, we had a huge “No More Chemo Party” in March of 2011 that was attended by her family, friends, nurses, and doctors. It was the best day of my life! Amanda started school again with her friends, started back up with her karate lessons, built a Star Wars Lego Battleship with her sister, and found a passion for skateboarding and yoyos. Her “no more chemo” gift was an English Bulldog she named Bruiser who was just like his name! We had studied and looked at English Bulldogs for almost 2 years and he was her dream come true. Our life was finally at peace and I went back to work so we could start to pay off the debt associated with Amanda’s illness. Life was good!
On June 23, 2011, Amanda came with me to work for “Bring Your Child to Work” day. She was having a great day; however, after lunch she started getting a headache saying “Mommy, I don’t feel good at all.” By 3:00pm, her pain had increased so I took her to her pediatrician who didn’t find anything and told us to take her home, give her Tylenol, and call if it worsens. About an hour later, the left side of Amanda’s face was paralyzed and she could not swallow. We rushed her to the hospital and our second nightmare began. After a crazy night of doctors, MRI’s, and CAT scans, they informed us she had a mass in her brain that required a biopsy. After hours of waiting, the surgeon came out and told us it looked like cancer and they were running tests on the biopsy. Our world of chemo and radiation began again. Amanda’s two sisters were tested to determine if they were candidates for a bone marrow transplant. Her oldest sister was a perfect match! New Hope. We spend our time preparing for transplant including receiving more chemo and radiation and another surgery to insert a Broviac® port intended for fluids, medications, and blood work during her transplant and recovery – so now we have a Broviac® and another port resulting in 8 to 10 IV lines running from her body almost daily. All this time she kept smiling, praying for other children, patting me on my back telling me “Mommy, everything’s going to be okay”. We mourned the loss of her hospital friends along the way and celebrated with those who were still in remission.
A week before her scheduled transplant in January 2012, Amanda’s cancer cells mutated. Chemo was like candy and we went from 0.05% cancer to 80% so she was no longer a candidate for transplant. Amanda never gave up hope and always believed in her healing. As one of her doctors said, “Amanda has more Mojo than I have ever seen before”! Amanda fought hard all while making everyone around her smile and laugh. She also had a dream. Amanda’s dream was that one day when she was healed she would make a clothing line for kids going through chemo that would allow them to keep their “modesty and dignity “. You see, Amanda always hated her body being exposed to a room full of strange doctors, nurses, and others and wanted better for other children.
On March 30, 2012, 11:29am, Amanda Hope lost her battle to Leukemia. In her honor, we are carrying out her vision of giving some dignity back to our children with something as simple as a shirt designed for them.