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Amanda's Story: Gentle strength of a Panda

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

My name is Amanda Brunson, but people call me Panda. This is my story.

I've always been an athlete. I played a lot of sports throughout school, but my heart has always lived in track and field. I was 21 years old and a senior in college when my life was turned upside down. On May 08, 2010, I was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia Cancer, with a positive Philadelphia chromosome.

This leukemia was a unique one. It doesn’t usually happen in my age group and my doctors had never seen a case like mine before, still to this day. I was scared but my mom told me “Panda, everything will be okay, we are going to pray to our Heavenly Father and let everything into his hands.” So that’s what we did! I took chemotherapy for three and a half years. Life was not easy and filled with many bumps in the road, but my faith kept me strong. I worshiped, prayed, wrote notes to encourage myself, danced, sang in my hospital room and hallways.

With the support of my family, friends, community and my unwavering faith, I got better! I graduated from college, found a job, and became an assisted coach for an AAU track team. I got back in shape, started grad school, and was excited about getting back into running competitively in track and field again. Things were going great!

During one of my track practices, I tripped over my feet and fell really hard. I didn’t feel good after that. I finished practice and went home, feeling worse once there. I decided to have my mom take me to the hospital. Blood test were taken and nothing was found, but I knew something was wrong. A week and a half later, I went back to my everyday life. I tried getting back into a regular routine but my body wasn’t acting the same anymore. I called my oncology nurse practitioner, told her something was wrong, and asked for a bone biopsy and a spinal tap. After my appointment, I was told that I should receive my results in a week. I got a phone call the next day.

Doctors say, "in five years if there is no evidence of disease, you are cured". On May 05, 2015, three days short of my five year anniversary, I got the call. "Amanda, it has come back. You have relapsed. The same diagnosis as the first time.”

After I got off the phone and told my family, I went outside and I made up in my mind. I said, "God you did not bring me this far to leave me. You are not a God that lies or leaves your people. I hear what the doctors are saying, but I know what you can do. You're the God that says, what is impossible with man is possible with God." That day I made up my mind that I am already healed. I refused to claim sickness! I choose to rest my mind on God’s words. I focused on the scriptures, worshiped, and prayed. I put my total faith in God and refused to give up. I started chemotherapy again and was put on the bone marrow registry list.

On August 26, 2015, I did my bone marrow transplant. A stranger donated their bone marrow to me. It was a 100% match.

Today, I am blessed to be working again. Everyday I am getting stronger, staying in shape, praying, spending time with God, and opening up space in my heart to for my passions. Everyday I gain a deeper understanding of the power of faith. My God is an on time God, he may not come when you want him to, but He's always right on time. I also know that I could not have made it without my community and support network. That's why I have chosen to give back. I volunteer at Ronald McDonald House, and will begin volunteering my time a the Moffitt Cancer Center soon. I have also chosen to share my story in the hopes that it may make a difference for someone is feeling hopeless, inspire bravery and strengthen in the mist of one's darkest hour, and to remind others that they are not alone. We are not alone. Never give up!


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