After she was diagnosed with leukemia, Amanda Knight knew she wanted to use her experiences to help others.
“I wanted my journey with leukemia to have as many positive outcomes on others as possible,” she said.
Just shy of 16, Knight found the diagnosis terrifying, but the now 23-year-old Purdue University Northwest student says it was a catalyst for her drive to give back, especially to other cancer patients.
“It means more than words can describe, but most of all it means my journey with cancer has purpose,” the Crown Point resident said.
A high school athlete, Knight first noticed unusual symptoms at her volleyball practice. She felt faint and unusually out of breath.
The next day, her pediatrician sent her to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis for further testing. She was subsequently diagnosed with leukemia.
For 2 1/2 years, the teen underwent chemotherapy that included IVs, pills, shots and spinal taps. She also endured eight weeks of cranial radiation.
That prompted her desire to give back.
“Any study, survey or event that I could be a part of at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, I said yes to,” Knight said.
She also connected with the Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids Foundation, and interned there last summer, helping prepare fundraising events, scouting resources for families, arranging “memory-making” wishes for terminally ill children, and soliciting donations. She even began dressing as Elsa from “Frozen” for family-friendly events.
“I knew I had to be a part of their team and started dedicating my time in any way that I could,” she said.
This summer, she is participating in several service projects that benefit pediatric hospitals and patients. She wants to give others the same hope she received.
“I had a nurse, Stacy, who told me on the night I was admitted that she had leukemia when she was a little girl, and I remember feeling so encouraged,” she said. “I thought to myself, If she could do it, I can do it.”
Knight, who is in remission, says she knew then she wanted to be others’ “Stacy.”
“It could be easy to look back and pick out all the awful things I went through, but somehow by the grace of God, I tend to focus on the good things,” Knight said. “Laughter shared with nurses, love given from family and friends, prayers sent by strangers, growth seen in my walk with the Lord. These positive things I remember about my journey give me unspeakable joy, and that’s what I want to share with other children — simply joy.”
This philosophy has led her to major in human development and family studies with a concentration in early childhood. This December, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in humanities, education and social sciences. She hopes to attend Erikson Institute in Chicago or Boston University’s School of Education to pursue a master’s degree in child life to become a child life specialist, who provide emotional support and coping strategies to families and children in health care settings.
“Being a child life specialist will allow me to bring joy to other children’s lives and give them a sense of hope in a really scary time,” she said.