By Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez, 15th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 28, 2014
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Being diagnosed with cancer can be a hard battle to overcome, but for one Hickam Airman, it was a fight she knew she could win.
"No matter how much you prepare for it, no one wants to hear those words - 'You have breast cancer,'" said Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick, 15th Medical Support Squadron patient flight. "After getting the news, I cried a little bit, but knew I had to get in the right frame of mind -- 'Ok, I know what I have, I know what I need to do to beat it, let's get this done.'"
Since day one of finding out her diagnosis, Dick has been on the offensive in her fight to beat breast cancer.
"My mind has just been on getting through this and I know I'll beat it because my mother did 11 years ago; she's a survivor," Dick said.
Dick found out she had cancer in October 2013 after a routine breast exam. She felt a hard lump the size of a pea, and made an appointment with her primary care manager the next day to start the diagnosis process. All of this happened while she was stationed in England, and immediately after confirming it was cancer, her office made arrangements for a humanitarian permanent change of station to Hawaii so she could be with her family.
"When I first got here [my parents] gave me a place to stay during my surgery and they gave me that comforting, home feeling," she said. "I'm the type of person who when I'm sick I want my mom by my side so it's nice to have her here, and to have my dad come and sit with me during my chemotherapy.
Also, with my mom having gone through this before, it's nice to have a survivor at home so that at my lowest points, I can remind myself that she was strong, and it makes me stronger. I don't think I'd be able to get through this without my family."
So far in her battle, Dick has had a double mastectomy procedure to rid her of the detectable cancer. And as a precautionary measure, she is now in the middle of chemotherapy to ensure no cancer remains behind.
To make the chemo process easier on her body, Dick had a portacath surgically placed under the skin of her upper chest area, which connects to a vein that allows chemo medicine to be directly delivered to the heart, minimizing the risk of infection or damage to her arm veins.
After the successful mastectomy and port insertion surgeries, and a rest period for healing, she was ready to start the preventative chemotherapy process.
Dick said she had a moment of realization during her first chemo session.
"I remember thinking, 'Uh, this is really going to happen,'" she said. "You're told that you can have all of these side effects like hair loss or nausea, but you don't know exactly how your body is going to react. I felt my head tingling so right away I just knew my hair was going to fall out. All I could do was mentally prepare."
So far, Dick has completed one-of-two chemo rounds, with four treatments in each. For a treatment, she reports to her oncology team at Tripler Army Medical Center.
"It's nice to see the same nurses and doctors, and occasionally you'll see another chemo patient and just say 'hey' and ask how they're doing, so that's comforting," Dick said.
With the shocking realization of cancer, multiple surgeries and now chemotherapy, Dick said, she follows the Four Dimensions of Wellness: spiritual, emotional, physical and social.
"It's something we always talk about in the Air Force, but in times like this, it is really important to keep healthy in all of those areas," she said. "Detecting [cancer] is the first step, the next step is fighting and getting through it by being prepared in all areas in your life."
Her father, Mike Dick, said he's extremely proud of his daughter for her strength through the cancer fight.
"I'm extremely proud of her," he said. "You're never prepared or ready for something like this, but we've done a good job coming together as a family. We all talk about it and even joke about it to relieve the tension."
Depending on how she reacts to the next round of chemo medication, she should be done with treatment at the end of April. Dick said after everything, she is most looking forward to running again.
"Right now I can't really run due to the pain I have and reaction to some of my medications," she said. "I also can't wait to not feel tired and nauseous all the time."
So far, Dick's fight against cancer is no contest; she's winning.
"My faith has been getting me through this," she said. "My family has been a big help, but my faith is ultimately what will pull me through."