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Tipton County’s Amanda Heath learns from mother & aunt, her battle against Breast Cancer inspires town, team and daughter

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Amanda Brighton with Heath Amanda Heath and family Amanda Heath daughter first pitch Amanda Heath roses

Growing up in Tipton County Amanda Heath had several role models.
And when it came to strength and survival, Amanda learned a valuable lesson from her aunt and mother Joeanne Alsbrook. Both women battled and beat breast cancer. With that in her memory bank, Amanda started have mammograms eight years before the suggested age of 40. And despite making it a regular part of her healthcare, Heath got the surprise of her life this past December 9.
“At first we were absolutely shocked,” she recalled. “I had previous mammograms and everything was fine. I went for my mammogram in October, they came back and said they had found something and we would just like to check it out.”
The doctors at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Tipton sent Heath to Memphis for a biopsy. The entire time the 36-year old was thinking about her husband of nearly 14 years Kevin and 9-year old daughter Molly Anne.
After the biopsy, Amanda had to wait two long days before being diagnosed with invasive ducal carcinoma.
“That’s the kind of breast cancer I have in stage 1,” she said. “The next steps were to decide how we wanted to treat it. Of course with my faith, my family, my friends and my co-workers I couldn’t make it without them.
“I can’t say enough about my family, my friends, my church family and work family,” Heath continued. “They’ve been real supportive of me.”
Since the day of her diagnoses the Tipton County community has rallied around its daughter. Amanda graduated from Munford High School in 1995 and currently works in Covington at Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Her husband is currently an assistant baseball coach for the Brighton High School Cardinals. And on March 25, the Cardinal Booster Club, Head Coach Brian Oswalt and the BHS players joined forces with opponents the Millington Trojans to organize a Breast Cancer Awareness game to pay tribute to Amanda and raise money to battle the disease.
Heath is in the middle of her battle with breast cancer. Her journey to recovery started January 14. After weeks of research and reflecting on her family’s past history against the disease, the Heath family decided Amanda should undergo a lumpectomy.
“With my mother and aunt having breast cancer before, I kind of had a little idea about some stuff,” she said. “And after much prayer and research we decided I should wait to have my surgery in January.”
The tumor was bigger than the doctor originally thought but it was still Stage 1. And no lymph nodes were affected. Now Amanda is in the process of six rounds of chemotherapy, taking treatments every three weeks. She has already completed three rounds. Once she is finished with chemo, Amanda will do 33 rounds of radiation.
Amanda said she knows Kevin will be by her side every step of the way.
“He’s been so great,” she said. “He’s a great husband. He’s a great father. I couldn’t have done any of this without him. He’s been with me every step of the way. He goes to the doctor with me.
“He’s there every step of the way,” Amanda added. “My chemo generally takes most of the day. He’s sits there with me.”
She said the game of baseball has been an escape for Kevin. And the Brighton Baseball family has given her family several moments of joy.
The Oswalt family hangs out with the Heath family to the point were the girls Molly and Molly Anne are best friends.
“(Kevin) loves baseball and that was my big thing about me having cancer, I didn’t want everything to change,” Amanda said. “I wanted us to try to still do things we’ve always been doing.”
Amanda and Kevin have compiled a support system of the Brighton Cardinals, Booster Club and the BHS faculty and staff including her sister BHS Assistant Principal Margarette Alsbrook.
Along with the medical staff at Baptist Tipton, several other doctors and nurses like Dr. Robert Johnson at West Clinic have supported the Heath Family. And Amanda gives thanks throughout this process to family and friends like Phil Alsbrook, mother-in-law Barbara Heath, countless aunts, uncles and cousins. Her work family and church family from Brighton ARP Church have been there.
“I can’t do a lot of the things I used to do as fast,” Amanda acknowledged. “When we go somewhere like the mall, I have to take a lot of breaks than I used to, but nothing the good Lord hasn’t helped me to get over.”
Amanda said the Lord has kept her spirit strong throughout the process. And when she received news the Brighton Baseball team wanted to have a tribute game for her, she was overwhelmed.
“I’m touched beyond words,” she said. “I can’t describe what that means to me. The Lord has given me a trail but He has allowed me to see wonderful things. One of those things is the people who have come to support me. ‘Whatever you need Amanda, I’m glad to help.’
“These are high school kids with a lot of things going on in their life,” Amanda added. “And these coaches, baseball is very important to them and at Brighton High School. The Booster Club has a lot to worry about like making sure the players get to where they need to be especially on a road game. They’re all very, very busy. For them to take time out for me, makes me feel very, very special.”
Heath said she has a special responsibility to get the word out about early detection.
“You need to have a mammogram before 40 because you just don’t know,” she said. I’ll have a really good outcome. I’m going to survive this. Most of what we’re doing is preventive and make sure it doesn’t come back.”
Amanda’s survival has put her in the position her aunt and mother once occupied. Through her physical and mental pains, Heath knows she’s being watched by one person in particular.
“I’m praying that I’m living as an example to her,” she said. “Molly Anne at 9, she is 9 in age but mentally and spiritually she’s a much older child. She’s mature beyond her years. We’ve always taught her to tell the truth. One of the hardest things I had to do was come home that night and tell her I had cancer.
“I pray that I am going to be an example for her no matter what the trail,” Amanda concluded. “Cancer happens to be the trail I’m going through right now. But she knows she can always lean on her Lord, family and friends. She’s doing real well with this because we’ve been so honest with her.”

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April 2014
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