Mandy Scott came home last week.
That's the furthest thing from being a trite sentence.
For the last year, the 36-year-old mother of four has been in the fight of her life against multiple myeloma. The rare but treatable cancer forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell, which helps attack germs. Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, crowding out healthier blood cells.
"After what feels like forever (17 days), it feels so good to be home!" the Batesville resident posted to her Facebook account June 5, following an arduous sequence that culminated in a stem cell transplant May 21.
"It was rough and I'm nowhere near back to myself, but I did it," she wrote. "I know cancer has hit the road, but I should know more in 100 days. Thank you all for the love, prayers and support."
On the last note, there's no shortage.
No fewer than 11 immediate family members, relatives and friends got together May 18 in a show of solidarity by having their heads shaved alongside their loved one.
"Originally, they said she wouldn't lose her hair until the transplant," related cousin Cindy Lamping, who chairs the survivors lap and breakfast at the Ripley County Relay for Life June 15-16.
"At first, it was just Mandy, her father, Rick Obermeyer; and husband (U.S. Air Force veteran Morgan Scott), but I talked several more of them into doing it," she added. "Then all others at the dinner that night agreed to do it without questions, in honor of Mandy."
Scott even felt well enough to initiate the first clipper cuts.
"She had the honor to do the first row to the top of the head, then I would take over," described Lamping, a hairdresser herself.
Among the freshly shorn folks were sons Gavin and Jaxon, her youngest. Though they wanted to keep their own locks, oldest daughter Lexi and daughter Katie were happy to buzz their relatives in attendance.
"I've shaved a couple survivors before and witnessed others, but this is the first time I've seen it in a quantity like this," added Lamping.
Word got out to family last December, underlining the seriousness of Scott's illness. Her first chemotherapy treatment was five days before Christmas.
From her first 2019 post: "Cancer changes you, but change can be good. I'm stronger now than I ever thought I could be. I'm happy and our family is closer than before. And, I'm alive! God is good and has a plan for me ... My story isn't over, it's just begun."
The next three months were trying, though the patient continued to register positive numbers. Her myeloma protein levels declined and immunoglobulin G levels normalized.
A port was inserted prior to four rounds of chemo (weekly for three weeks on, week off) and a nightly chemo pill (same monthly schedule). By March 28, Scott was ringing the cancer bell.
"Today was a victory for me regardless, because (the process) has made me stronger," posted the youngest child of Rick and Patty Obermeyer.
Four days before her stem cells were to be harvested at an outpatient procedure in Indianapolis, Scott had injections which would help the stem cell flow from the bone marrow into the bloodstream.
She was told the collection of cells could take as many as three days. The harvesting goal was 10 million cells – or enough for two transplants.
The doctors collected 10.5 million on the very first day.
"I can't explain how draining that was," read the post later that day. "But good things do come out of the darkness. I went in praying I wouldn't have to go back tomorrow. God answered my prayers. He is faithful."
Days after, she was back for high-dosage chemo infusions and ultimately the transplant.
According to Lamping, Scott fully intends to partake in this weekend's activities as a member of the Angels Among Us team. She and Uncle Bob (Lamping's father) plan to walk the opening lap before heading to the survivors breakfast. Depending how she feels, her Saturday night will include the Fight Back Ceremony as well as the Awards Ceremony and Luminary Service.
"We used to be Heaven Can Wait, but my sister Ronda came up with Angels Among Us, because so many in our family have had cancer, especially the women," said Lamping of the group that's raised $210 with little fundraising focus.
The group's page can be found by searching main.acsevents.org. Another site of interest is a GoFundMe page set up by family friend Bryan Greene (https://www.gofundme.com/mandy-scott-medical); it's raised $1,110 to date.
"The night of the dinner was very emotional," recalled Lamping. "It was a cool feeling that so many didn't care (to shave their heads).
"It proved in that moment that Mandy's fight is not her fight, but our fight," she added. "She's definitely not fighting alone."
Will Fehlinger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 112.