Picture of Amanda in Hospital with thumbs up

Amanda Saunders

Grand Falls-Windsor NL

A chronic illness is not a gift, but it’s certainly a lesson that I carry with me.

Amanda Saunders


In January 2019 at 21 years old I had a heart transplant. The surgery took place in Ottawa and went well, but in September I was hospitalized for 3 weeks with E-Coli, followed soon after by another stomach virus. I was very sick. I spent Christmas, New Years and my first heart anniversary in the hospital. Then another complication. I was diagnosed with Epstein Barr virus which attacked my blood stream, liver, and GI tract. We thought my GI pain was caused by the stomach virus, but I was soon told that I had Post- transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder (PTLD), which resulted from the Epstein Barr virus. I was terrified and all I could think was “Here we go again.” I felt all the gains I had made were ripped out from under me.

A chronic illness is not a gift, but it’s certainly a lesson that I carry with me. At first I was angry, hurt, and bitter. I was not quite 23 years old and going through another major health crisis. Yet there is also much for which I am grateful. I would never have met former premier Paul Davis, which was a very exciting opportunity for me! He also connected me with LLSC which has been an amazing resource. PTLD is rare, only 1-2% of transplant patients get it, and I couldn’t find any information. Once Paul connected me with LLSC they provided me a detailed fact sheet which broke down all the details I needed, as well as a blood cancer information package. I was so excited!

My supporters have been an important part of my journey. My parents moved to Ottawa with me for my transplant and treatments. They have been so supportive, but this experience has been hard on them. My health care team in Ottawa has also been incredible. They made holidays and birthdays special for me and made me feel safe and secure. Because of my health care team, I never felt scared. They told me “We’re all here for you. You will kick cancer’s butt”. That’s exactly what I’m doing!

I can’t wait to participate in my first Light The Night this year! It’s important to me to spread awareness of blood cancer and the great work of LLSC. I also want people to know that age isn’t a free pass, this isn’t just an “older illness”. Blood cancer can affect anyone.