A New Hope for Amanda
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Raised $11,420
Goal $20,000
Days Left 0
MS affects every aspect of my life and I live with pain every day. I want to stop the progression of my disease before I have no quality of life left.
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March 20, 2017

The Story

Melbourne, FL

Amanda Tanner Stillwagon of Melbourne, Florida was used to being a busy, involved mom of two, going everywhere and doing everything. She was active in her children’s school as the homeroom mom, school clinic employee, and fundraisers chairperson. She and her husband Doug have always been animal lovers and own a dog, pet pig, and chickens. What used to be a life full of activities outside the home has now turned into a lot of quiet time spent at home due to Amanda’s illness.

Not long after her youngest child turned a year old, Amanda started to notice that her energy level was not what it used to be, but chalked it up to being drained from all her activities. Then one of her eyes started hurting and she developed a blind spot. After a few days of fatigue and vision problems, she decided she should get it checked out at the doctor. “That was the day my life changed forever,” said Amanda. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) two weeks before her 33rd birthday in April 1999.

MS occurs when the nerves in the brain and spinal cord attack the “insulation” on the nerves of the body. The results of this nerve damage range from tingling and numbness to chronic pain and worse. MS can take away one’s ability to walk, talk, see or even breathe. Once damage is done, the body doesn’t have the ability to repair it. “As those with MS will tell you, one never knows when the disease will attack or how much damage it will cause,” said Amanda.

Because of her symptoms, Amanda was forced to stop working. “MS affects every aspect of my life and I live with pain every day. I want to stop the progression of my disease before I have no quality of life left. I am not the woman that I was,” she said. In the last three years, her disease has become more active and MRIs confirm that she is suffering more damage to her brain and spinal cord. “After my last MRI, I decided I must take action to stop this disease before it stops me,” said Amanda.

A treatment called Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has shown an 80% success rate of stopping the progression of MS. HSCT uses high doses of chemotherapy to essentially wipe out the body’s immune system and the patient’s own stem cells are transplanted back in the body to help rebuild the immune system without MS. Amanda has chosen to undergo this treatment at one of the top facilities in the world, the AA Maximov Department of Hematology and Cellular Therapy in the National Pirogov Medical Surgical Center located in Moscow, Russia. “If I am lucky enough to be one of the successes, I will no longer have any new MS damage and will never have to take MS drugs again,” said Amanda.

Amanda’s stem cell transplant is tentatively scheduled for February and March 2018. “HSCT cannot reverse damage already done but it is my hope it will stop the progression so that I can enjoy my husband, children, and future grandchildren without further disability,” said Amanda. The cost of this treatment is $50,000 not including travel expenses and follow up care once she returns to the US. She needs to raise $20,000 through RedBasket.org to put toward the treatment and travel expenses. “It’s not easy to ask for help but I feel if I wanted to live a life with minimal disability and enjoy my family as I grow older, I have no choice. Every contribution and every dollar helps to get me closer to a life without this monster inside me,” said Amanda. Donate and share her story today!

Updates (7) Updates (7)
Just 100 days |

Today is a milestone as far as time until treatment goes. In just 100 days I will be getting on the plane headed to get disability saving and lifesaving treatment for MS. This last year has been a rough one. I have literally been relapsing every 2-3 months and then it takes weeks to recover. Thank God this last time I have recovered and I am feeling really good right now and enjoying these good days, such a blessing. I hope that I can make it until February without anymore relapses so that I have a chance to build up strength for treatment. I still don't have all the funds needed but we are getting closer and my tickets, hotel and visa are all paid for. I have faith this treatment will work for me and I will be in the 80% of success stories. However, if it does not work I will have the peace of mind knowing I tired and be able to show my children and husband that I did everything possible to beat this disease. The holidays are fast approaching but remember for anyone who would like to donate all donations made through Red Basket are tax deductible and greatly appreciated! I would have not gotten this far if not for the support of my wonderful family and friends.

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Timely Blessings |

Yesterday was a rough day on many levels. This time yesterday morning I was feeling very sad and defeated but Angels keep showing up when I need them! This morning I woke to find someone made an anonymous $5000 donation to my Red Basket campaign! I hope that no matter who this angel is that they know how much their generosity means to me. Yesterday's tears of sadness and frustration are today tears of gratitude and joy, I am continually blessed!

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Dreaming of Normal |

When I am following other patients journey through high dose chemotherapy to halt MS there is always one event that makes me cry. There is always a point in treatment when they can actually feel the weight (for lack of a better word) of the disease lift. Every one of them always says the same thing, "I forgot what it feels like to feel normal". I cry because I know that after 18 years I no longer remember what normal feels like either. I can't wait to again know what NORMAL feels like! I want to thank again all the friends and people who don't even know me who are supporting my dream of feeling normal once again.

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Latest Relapse Update |

I thought it was time for an update on my latest MS relapse.
This last relapse came in the form of optic neuritis in my left eye; I was
having pain, the color was going in that eye, vision was blurry, my pupil was
sluggish and was slower to react to light. Good news is that I believe all of
this has resolved thanks to the course of steroids the doctors prescribed. The
bad news is steroids are bad stuff, they literally make you feel crazy and at a
time when you should be resting, they make you feel like the Energizer Bunny
and you just cannot stop! I did not get more than 3 hours sleep every night I
was on the steroids and last weekend while still taking them I worked out in
the yard all weekend catching up on things that I had let slide for months
because the MS has been hitting me so hard. Fast forward, to the last, couple
of days and I have been off steroids and I am now experiencing “steroid crash”!

OMG, everything is hurting and I feel like I have the energy
of a newborn baby! Last night I told my husband to please not even talk to me I
just didn’t have the energy to think about what he was saying or listen. Five
top problems of the crash; irritability might as well called it downright
crankiness.  I tell myself it is better
to isolate myself in my misery, than it is to risk hurting the ones I love
because I am in such a bad mood and so overly sensitive to sounds, smells and
noises. Weak and lethargic not only am I tired from not having the steroids, I could
care less as well. It is a strange emotional place to be, even when I must
perform a task, I am just doing it to get it out of the way so you can go back
to laying down and doing nothing but there is so much going on right now and so
much I need to take care of. Sleeping more this is a no-brainier; my body needs
to sleep to catch up on all the sleep I lost being totally wired from the steroids.
I am relieved to finally be sleeping again. I am amazed at the times I fall
asleep last night in bed 4 pm. Seems when I lay down with the intent on
sleeping, nothing happens, but when I think I'm just going to lay down to rest,
before I know it, I'm asleep. Dehydration, I cannot get enough to drink I am
constantly thirsty and my lips and mouth are dry and my lips are red and puffy.
Last but by far least, Depression/irrational thoughts run together in a very
strange way.  The dark feelings of dread
and sadness can hit and then hang around for what seems forever.  I know and I keep telling myself “this is
just temporary' 'things aren't that bad' 'I'll handle what comes with my health
as it comes' 'there is a reason I'm feeling so down - the steroids!'

Things will be better in a few weeks, until then I ask for
patience and understanding. I have to keep going I have too much to do and
accomplish to slow down to much.

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Special Support from Childhood Friend |

I was a super skinny shy kid growing up and I rode the bus and went all through school with another skinny shy kid who was always into music. Who could have guessed back then that he would someday be a ROCK STAR! I may not have known where our paths would take us but I have always known you are one of the GOOD GUYS Rodney O'Quinn and someone who cares. I cannot thank you and the rest of Foghat for the generous donation to help me beat Multiple Sclerosis! Love you my friend! This guitar will be up for auction at the BBQ Benefit on Saturday, April 22nd.

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BBQ Benefit for Amanda Stillwagon |

On Saturday, April 22, 2017 there will be a BBQ to help Amanda get the treatment that she needs. There will also be Silent Auction, Raffles and Music; for more information, tickets or if you would like to donate for Auctions or Raffles  please email atanner66@aol.com or call 321-698-1279.

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In My Own Words |

Video in my own words hard to not get emotional, asking for help is hard.

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Encouragements (2) Encouragements (2)
From: M. Ellis, OTI |
Prayers for a safe and successful journey, Amanda.

I don't know how to thank you for your generosity and support. Doug thought something was terribly wrong this morning when I came out of our bedroom crying. When I told him about the donation then we were both crying. Please continue to support me in your prayers it means so much to me. I hope that you all had a beautiful Christmas and were able to spend time with the kids. Happy New Year and Love to you all!
Amanda Stillwagon

From: M. Ellis, OTI |
We are praying for a safe and successful journey for you, Amanda!

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