March 9, 2011

07CN: Cancer Survivor Serves Church, Community

Cancer Survivor Serves Church, Community
Retired missionary, educator Dorothea Amey lives to help others
BY MARK STORER, Ventura County Star, reporting from Moorpark, California. Copyright © 2011 Ventura County Star. Reprinted with permission.
Dorothea Amey of Moorpark leads an active life. Married and having raised two sons, she was a public school teacher and later an educator with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and a missionary in Zimbabwe and Zambia. In retirement, she is still active with the Camarillo Adventist church and works in “the Pantry,” the church’s outreach arm to those who need food and household items when times are tough.
Amey also was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She’s an eight-year survivor.
“I was working at Pacific Union College in Napa Valley and one day I became jaundiced and kind of itchy,” said Amey, now 66. “I went to the hospital and they thought it was hepatitis,” she said. Further tests revealed the cancer.

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SURVIVOR SERVES COMMUNITY: Pancreatic cancer survivor Dorothea Amey, a retired Seventh-day Adventist missionary and educator from Moorpark, California, helps bag vegetables to be given to needy families at the Camarillo Seventh-day Adventist Church pantry. [Photo: Rob Varela/Copyright © 2011 Ventura County Star. Reprinted with permission.]

“We knew that most people don’t survive more than six months,” Amey said. “But I believe that good medicine and my own spiritual walk, my faith in the Lord, has sustained me,” she said. “I’m a happy person and truly I don’t think about cancer every day. I garden and I do my own housework. I live my life.”

Amey underwent a complex and life-altering surgery called a “Whipple” and went through chemotherapy. The Whipple procedure is the most common surgery for pancreatic cancer and involves removal of the head of the pancreas, a portion of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and the duodenum.
Amey’s life is filled with opportunities to serve and she says that’s what drives her. “I’ve been all over the world and I’ve seen so many things,” she said. “That has given me a lot of peace.”
As of three years ago, her doctor has found no cancer in Amey’s body. “Dr. (William) Isacoff at UCLA is a leader in this field, in pancreatic cancer. He gives people hope when many don’t have it,” said Amey.
In January, Isacoff told Amey she no longer needed chemotherapy, though she’ll continue to have blood tests and scans because pancreatic cancer is always in the blood stream. It can show up at any time.
“Chemo is no walk in the park,” said Amey’s husband, Gene. “It wears her down, but she does OK.”
Amey also talks to patients at UCLA’s hospital and takes phone calls from around the nation from cancer patients, offering words of encouragement. “I’m certainly focused on my faith walk, but I don’t push that on people. They’re so fearful, they just need someone to relate to and I do that,” Amey said.
“She’s been on an amazing journey,” said Pastor Dennis Stirewalt of Camarillo Seventh-day Adventist Church. “She’s a fighter and a lady of real grace.
“You can lay down and give up or you can put the spirit up and fight. Her love of God lets her do that,” he said.
It is her work with the pantry that Amey loves most.
“I consider myself a cheerleader for the group,” Amey said. “We have between 300 and 400 people that are fed each week. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” she said. “With the economy as it is, it’s been very busy, but we have our successes, too.”
Amey teared up as she described one woman who was living in her car and came to the pantry.
“She came in one day to tell us she didn’t need us anymore, that she had an apartment and a job and she left some money with us as a donation,” said Amey. “It was incredible.”
“When (Amey) comes in, she does whatever needs to be done,” said Milly Johnson, director of the pantry. “As a missionary, she learned to dig in and do the hard work. It’s in her personality. It’s part of her makeup.”