Inspiring Others: A Breast Cancer Survivors Story

Inspiring Others: A Breast Cancer Survivors Story

By Liz Reph

Amanda Buss-Sivak has been through far more than most women twice her age.  Today, at just 36-years-old, she is starting a new round of chemotherapy for her fourth battle with cancer. “It’s an ongoing journey,” said Amanda. “But I believe your mind frame is 99% of the fight, and I can honestly say that I don’t let it get me down.”

Amanda’s journey began eight years ago, when she first noticed a small lump on her left breast.  A trip to the doctor and a series of tests revealed the unimaginable – Amanda had breast cancer at age 28. “My daughter, Madalyn, was just four-years-old at the time,” she recalled.  “So my initial reaction was to wonder if I would live to see her grow up. That was the most terrifying thought.”

Almost immediately, Amanda underwent a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. She then started chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  “Because it was rare to have breast cancer at such a young age, my doctor recommended I attend a support group,” she said. “But when I went to the meeting, all the women were much older than me and they spent the majority of the time complaining.  And that made me realize exactly what I didn’t want to do – I didn’t want to focus on the negative, or on the things that I couldn’t control.  So when I left that meeting I had made up my mind that from then on I would remain as positive as I could.”

“I think once you establish that you don’t want people to feel sorry for you, you create a strength that other people can feed off of.”

But like many cancer patients, Amanda’s treatment was wrought with difficulty.  The chemo and radiation robbed her of her hair and left her both extremely fatigued and violently ill. “My boyfriend [Mark] and I had only been dating for about two years when this started, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to handle everything,” said Amanda. “But not only has he been by my side, helping me every step of the way, he’s also become a major source of strength for Madalyn by taking on a real father role with her.”

In addition to the support of her family and friends, Amanda also sought help through the Young Survivor Coalition – a breast cancer support group geared towards younger women. “This group was mostly women under forty, and it focused on issues that were applicable to us, like how to deal with our children or the challenges of intimacy with our partners. At the same time, we’d also do fun things together – like go to a pub for trivia night or go paint pottery.  And those group activities were instrumental in helping to keep me focused.”

In December of 2006, after four months of treatment, Amanda’s cancer went into remission. With the chemo and radiation over, she settled into a new routine of seeing her doctor once every six months for a regular checkup. “They said if the cancer was going to come back, it typically happens within the first five years,” explained Amanda. “And everything was fine for quite a while. But then, in the summer of 2010, I started having a really bad pain in my side. So I went to the emergency room and they diagnosed it as kidney stones and gave me some medication.  But after a couple more days, the pain wouldn’t go away, so I ended up back in the emergency room and they did a CT scan.” 

The scan revealed devastating news – Amanda’s breast cancer had metastasized, spreading secondary tumors to her liver, pancreas, ovaries and spine. “It was definitely hard to hear,” said Amanda.  “But I was determined to beat it, so I went through more chemo and more radiation.  And as before, my family and friends were by my side. Mark and I were married two years ago and he’s continued to be my greatest source of strength.”

Last summer, Amanda’s cancer returned for a third time when doctors found another tumor in her left arm. Then, just a few months ago, active tumors were again discovered in her liver, necessitating the start of yet another round of chemo. 

As her battle continues today, Amanda remains focused on the positive. “I think once you establish that you don’t want people to feel sorry for you, you create a strength that other people can feed off of,” said Amanda. “And that becomes contagious and it helps others overcome their hurdles.” 

Committed to the fight both for herself and for others, Amanda concentrates her energy by working with organizations such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and the Cancer Support Community of the Lehigh Valley. “As an ‘Ambassador of Hope’ for the Cancer Support Community, I help provide feedback and guidance on what types of programs best meet the needs of people here in the Valley,” she explained. “I also work with the local branch of the Get in Touch Foundation, which provides free breast health initiatives and education to school age children in grades 5-12. This is particularly important because girls are developing at an earlier age now, which means it is increasingly important that we educate them on how to be aware of their bodies early on.”

“I know I will face this disease for the rest of my life,” said Amanda. “But I also know that it will not beat me. Cancer doesn’t stop me from living life – I simply won’t let it. My goal is to use this experience to help others. I always tell people that you don’t need to be a missionary to make a difference in this world. You just need to be on a mission to make a difference to those around you.”

For more information or to find out how you can help, please visit:

Relay for Life:

Cancer Support Community Greater Lehigh Valley:

Get in Touch Foundation:

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