Couple planning wedding, life despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — There is cancer in her lungs and in her bones and she has to use a walker to get around, but what Amanda Catano really wants to know is if her visitors have a place to go for the holidays.
"Do you need any water? Drinks or anything?" she asks more than once to those who have come to ask about her story.
She apologizes for the walker.
"Maybe your grandparents have one," she jokes.
A television camera is situated in her living room and a microphone is clipped to her collar.
"I hear the camera adds 10 pounds. That's what I need — a little weight gain."
To say the 32-year-old woman is thin would be an understatement. To say the woman facing stage 4 colon cancer is lovely, charming, funny and warm would also be an understatement.
The first thing her fiancé, Jason Dorais, noticed when he met Catano last year was her sense of humor. Her illness only amplified that and all of the other good things he first saw in her.
"She was always having fun, always upbeat and happy, and I think through this whole process, that has just reaffirmed it," he said. "She's staying upbeat and happy and all the initial things I loved about her are even more now.
"I don't know that it's changed much of anything, but it's strengthened what I'd seen earlier, that she could stay like that through tough times."
The couple got engaged Nov. 10 after they learned about the cancer. Cancer, they said, has a way of making things seem clearer and more urgent. They plan to marry in December.
"I think for us it was that we're just really excited and looking forward to the future and I feel like we have a really bright future together," Catano said. "We don't know how long that is, how many years, but I feel like we can make the most of it and we'll do well."
They met through friends in March 2011 and — Dorais especially hates this part — they started a game of Words with Friends. Within a day or so, he asked for her number using the game.
"I think he was like, 'I know this is kind of lame to do this, but can I get your number?'" she recalled.
They went rock climbing on their first date and have been together since. She said she knew that she wanted to marry him in six months. He recently told her he knew much earlier than that, but held back.
"I guess we'd been thinking about marriage for a while now and I was kind of unsure, as probably any guy would be …," Dorais starts.
"Because he thought I was crazy and anorexic," Catano interjects, referring to the dramatic weight loss and emotional struggles before her diagnosis. "And then I get cancer and that's when he decides."
Catano said she first noticed something was off when she was training for the Ogden Marathon in January and started experiencing frequent incidences of diarrhea. It was abnormal, but she chalked it up to the increased running.
But it persisted, even after she had run the marathon, and she noticed she was more fatigued. When things worsened, she called a doctor. She had searched the Internet about her symptoms, but ruled out colon cancer as a possibility because of her age and lack of family history with the illness.
The initial tests showed nothing, but she was advised to follow up with a gastroenterologist.
"In retrospect, I look back and I really wasn't myself last year," she said. "I feel like I was … something just felt off and that's what drove me to go in and find out what was going on. I just didn't feel healthy, I didn't feel like myself."
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