Skin cancer survivor Amanda Hromadka: ‘I’m lucky to be alive’
-Jun 19, Hannah Hargrave , Living -
Amanda Hromadka was just 34-years-old when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer and given a devastating prognosis. Against life threatening odds she beat the disease and went on to live a full and happy life. But as we approach UV Safety month she’s issued a stark reminder of what could have been. Here she talks to Lumity about her diagnosis, her recovery and why she never takes life for granted.
As a happy, healthy woman in her early 30’s cancer was the furthest thing from Amanda’s mind so when doctors delivered a skin cancer diagnosis of Melanoma Stage 3 her world came crashing down around her.
Far from being a sun worshipper Amanda – now 56 – had always looked after her skin and while she enjoyed the warmer weather as much as the next person she had considered herself careful.
‘I went from hopeless to determined’
Her news therefore came as a complete shock and the survival rate even more impossible to concede.
“I was told my five-year-survival rate was just 10% and I completely shut down,” she tells Lumity. “I didn’t want to fight this and decided to just accept my fate. I slumped into a depression which was quickly followed up by anger. But then something happened and I don’t know what, but there was a shift and and I went from feeling completely hopeless to determined to fight the cancer. The prognosis may have been poor but I knew I couldn’t give up. I began doing my research and investing in my future.”
Related: What’s in chemical free sunscreen?
Amanda’s rollercoaster of emotions was entirely understandable. While her cancer had originated on her arm, at stage 3 it had spread from the skin cells to the lymph nodes.
‘Sunbeds are bad’
There was no time to waste. Her treatment was grueling and seemingly never ending.
“I had a wide excision on my arm and as soon as I had recovered from that operation, about four weeks, I had lymph node removal. 27 were removed in total and cancer cells were detected in the main auxiliary lymph nodes under my armpit. This was not good!
“The next place it should/would have travelled was my brain or throat.”
Amanda’s treatment was brutal. She opted for Interferon – a natural substance that helps the body’s immune system fight infection and other diseases. But the process was lengthy.
‘I have never looked back’
“To begin with it was done at the hospital in very high doses,” explains Amanda. “I had a shunt put in and was taken to the hospital by family and friends for treatment on a daily basis. This made me incredibly sick and tired. I slept 18-20 hours a day, was anemic, depressed and not eating. The doses were lowered to injectables twice a day which I could administer myself. 60% of people do not complete four months let alone a year as it gives you flu-like symptoms 24 hours a day. But I did it! I completed one year.”
Amanda who also firmly believes in homeopathic medicine such as Reiki, daily visualisation and massage had to undergo MRI’s every 6 months for two years and was given the all clear after three years of being cancer-free.
With her eyes firmly fixated on the future she went on to have two gorgeous sons with her husband – despite the fact her cancer treatment can make you infertile.
‘I try not to get stressed’
Now she runs her own business and thanks her lucky stars every single day that she’s still here.
“I have never looked back,” she says before admitting: “Although as a cancer survivor I can be a little neurotic with any simple ailment! I have to remind myself I’m not dying.”
She did have a scare last year when she was diagnosed with two basil carcinoma. One on her arm which she had removed and a second on her ear which she did 20 days of radiation for. While that didn’t work she had Mohs – microscopically controlled – surgery last year.
‘I could have died’
So how has beating cancer shaped her: “I upped my health game, even though I was already pretty active and healthy before my diagnosis. I used to cleanse and juice every day… yikes I need to start doing that again. I do take vitamins, I walk, attend yoga and really try not to get stressed.”
And if she could give anyone going through the same situation some words of advice what would they be?
“Research everything and anything. You need to have hope and believe. Sunscreen is fabulous, sunbeds are bad and when you come out the other side know that you will still have daily struggles. But when I’m having a bad day I have to remind myself that I could have died. I am lucky to be alive.”