Amanda Ott, 44-year-old financial controller of operations at TimkenSteel, lived a lifestyle too healthy to allow a disease such as cancer to enter into it.
Even after signs of an abnormality showed up a few years ago and initial tests failed to confirm it, Ott’s life went on, “in denial.” Nervousness over her condition didn’t set in until late last year.
“I found out on December 30, 2019,” Ott recalled.
She spent her first days after the diagnosis in shock.
“I was only 43 at the time of the diagnosis,” she said. “Mortality kind of sneaks up on you, and you wonder for the first time if you are doing to die. It’s amazing how nothing else matters when you don’t have your health.”
Ott met with her surgeon, Dr. Joseph Saadey, on January 2, 2020.
“I had a whole new outlook. He spent over an hour explaining everything to me. I felt like I was the only patient he had that day. Walking out of there, I felt relieved to have a plan. I knew I would be okay.”
Discussions with her medical oncologist, Dr. Shruti Trehan, and radiology oncologist, Dr. Susan Cheng, further eased her mind.
Her treatment included a lumpectomy in January and chemotherapy starting in February. Radiation treatments began in June.
“Chemo was a different experience because I cold-capped,” she said, noting that this procedure allowed her to keep 85% of her hair. “It’s a process of freezing your hair follicles during and immediately after your treatment to try and keep your hair.”
It’s not a matter of vanity, she stressed.
“Some women embrace losing their hair, and I think that is fantastic. But that wasn’t me. During a time when I felt so powerless, keeping my hair was something that I could control. It lifted my spirits tremendously.”
Experience at Aultman
The staff at Aultman also strived to create some sense of normalcy.
“Erin Meek, my nurse navigator, followed me through all of it, checking up on me through every part of the process,” recalled Ott. “One of my radiation therapists, Jessie Rotondo, made me feel like family. You go almost every day for six or seven weeks. They know your name, and they do so much to help you, especially at the end when you’re worn down.”
Others close to her also came to her aid.
“My parents, my family, my friends and my co-workers were extremely supportive. My boss and my company have also been amazing and very supportive throughout the entire process,” she said. “My friend, Jamie Hill, who was featured in Brave & Beautiful a few years ago, spent hours helping me understand the process. Everyone’s experience is unique, but she really helped minimize my anxiety about what I was about to face.”
What wasn’t expected, she said, was the support from other survivors, who were strangers.
“People I didn’t even know were reaching out,” said Ott. “They understand what you are going through. It’s the most amazing club that you hope you or your loved one never joins. I hope to someday pay that generosity and kindness forward.”
In the meantime, with her treatments still fresh in her mind, Ott has resumed life with a fresh attitude.
“It’s important to really LIVE life. Don’t save that bottle of wine for a special occasion. Take that trip now, not when you retire. Knock some of those items off your bucket list. Spend quality time with family and friends, and be present. Tell the people close to you how much you love them. Make the most of the time you have here.”