Amanda Weaver sits in her West Manchester Twp. home with books put together by both her York Catholic High friends and University of Hartford friends.
Amanda Weaver sits in her West Manchester Twp. home with books put together by both her York Catholic High friends and University of Hartford friends. Amanda's York Catholic basketball jersey hangs in the background.
MORE PHOTOS (Randy Flau)

The eyes of nearly 50 young girls stayed locked on Amanda Weaver.

She was speaking June 12 in the gymnasium inside the Dallastown Area Intermediate School.

They were there for a week-long girls' basketball camp led by Dallastown High School girls' basketball coach Mary Manlove, who invited Weaver to talk about her experiences, on and off the court.

"She had a remarkable way with engaging student-athletes and really bringing adversity down to their level," Manlove said.

That day at Dallastown, Weaver spoke about the torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee she overcame in high school to help the York Catholic girls' basketball program win state championships. And the torn meniscus in her left knee she fought back from in her senior year at University of Hartford (Conn.) to help the Hawks reach the NCAA Division I Tournament.

The most inspirational part of Weaver's story, however, came when she discussed the obstacles she has faced off the hardwood since June 4, 2012 -- the day she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 23.

Cancer: Dressed in a hospital gown, Weaver sat in a bed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in late July with her mother, Susan, and father, Mike, by her side. It's a familiar scene for the Weaver family, which also includes younger sister Alyssa, who was born 18 months after Amanda.

The Weavers had been in and out of Johns Hopkins for the last 15 months. This time Amanda was being treated for an obstruction in her small bowel, another setback in her road to recovery.

Initially, the Weavers were baffled as to why Amanda developed colorectal cancer at such a young age. Ninety percent of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are at least 50 years old, according to cancer.org. Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths this year, according to the website.

"I have a genetic component," Amanda said. "It (colorectal cancer) had to have come from somebody (in my family). We think I was just born with a messed-up gene and it just developed over the years."

That made more sense to the Weaver family when various tests revealed Amanda also has Lynch Syndrome, an inherited disorder that puts her at a better chance of developing many cancers. Approximately 3 percent to 5 percent of colon cancers are caused by Lynch Syndrome.

Success: The initial symptoms Weaver experienced -- blood in the stool -- first popped up in her sophomore year of high school. However, the symptoms were very mild.

"It was every once a while I would notice it. Toward the end it was like every day, every time I would go to the bathroom," Weaver said. "It wasn't so much pain, it was just that I would get cramping every once in a while, but I would attribute it to more feminine things than I would anything else."

Amanda Weaver, #14, defends a Boston University opponent during a game for the University of Hartford.
Amanda Weaver, #14, defends a Boston University opponent during a game for the University of Hartford. (University of Hartford Photo/Steve McLaughlin)

The symptoms didn't affect her performance on the court, though. In Weaver's freshman season at York Catholic in 2003-04, the Fighting Irish compiled a winning season (24-8) for the first time in seven years. It marked the beginning of what has become a York Catholic dynasty. Another successful season followed in 2004-05 (23-4) before Weaver led the Fighting Irish to back-to-back state titles as a junior and senior, including an undefeated 35-0 season in 2006-07.

A 6-foot, 160-pound versatile player, Weaver finished as York Catholic's all-time leading scorer with 1,780 points -- a mark surpassed a few years later by Kady Schrann (2,161 points).

Weaver went on to play at Hartford, where she averaged 2.8 points in 71 games of action (12 starts) over a four-year career from 2007 to 2011. While not a full-time starter, she got to be part of the Hawks teams that won two America East Conference regular-season titles and one conference tournament title and appeared in three NCAA tournaments.

"I think that she is pretty fundamental about a lot of things," Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti said of Weaver. "I think sometimes coaches are looking for players that look the part. I don't know if she looks the part, but she always got the job done. She could shoot it, she could handle it and she could play the post."

Diagnosis: A bachelor's degree in physical therapy in hand, Weaver went through her first internship at Drayer Physical Therapy in West York in early 2012.

"I tore my ACL in high school. That's when I really got interested in (physical therapy)," Weaver said. "I knew going into college that's what I wanted to do."

She had intentions of returning to Hartford last fall to pursue of a second year of grad school courses in physical therapy. But everything came to a halt when she went for a colonoscopy in June 2012.

"The gastroenterologist, when he went in to do the colonoscopy he saw it and he knew right away," Susan Weaver said.

Amanda had stage three colorectal cancer, and her entire large intestine would need to be removed.

Surgery: Chemotherapy soon followed before Amanda's nearly six-hour surgery Sept. 25 at Johns Hopkins, where Dr. Susan Gearheart removed Weaver's large intestine, connected an external waste pouch and fashioned the small intestine into a small waste pouch -- once the small intestine heals, the external waste pouch is later removed in a second surgery.

Gearheart provided the good news to the Weavers immediately following the first surgery.

"In my confusion, I'm like 'Now, how does this work? Is she now considered cancer free or do we have to wait until she does chemo?'" Susan Weaver said. "And she (Gearheart) said 'No. She's cancer free.'"

Still, Weaver opted to go through a second round of chemo following surgery just to rid herself of any possible cancerous cells that might have been left over.

Weaver doesn't have horror stories about her health over the last 15 months, only saying her hair thinned and she lost about 20 pounds.

"Every cancer has a different regimen of chemo," Weaver said. "Mine didn't cause me to lose my hair, but it was so brittle and so thin that I had to cut it anyway."

Support: Through it all, those around Weaver say she has maintained a positive attitude.

"I think my perspective on a lot of things has changed," she said. "All of this has been a blessing and a curse at the same time. Would I want to go through this again? No. But have I had more time to spend with my family and friends? Yes. I'm so thankful for that."

She's grown closer to her mom, a Kennard-Dale grad, especially since March, when Susan Weaver lost her job with Catholic Charities at the Diocese of Harrisburg.

The unemployment meant the Weavers had to find another way to cover Amanda's health care costs, turning to Amanda's father, Mike, a West York grad who works full-time as a systems analyst for Bon-Ton.

The Weaver family has also received overwhelming financial support to the tune of more than $85,000 through a handful of fundraisers in Hartford and York County.

And there have been various contributions of emotional support, such as last season when the Hartford women's team wore blue wrist bands -- the color designated for colon cancer -- in support of Weaver.

Moving forward: Weaver looks relatively healthy. Her setback in July cleared up. Sitting on the couch in the living room of her parents' two-story home in West Manchester Township last month, Weaver said there's still work to be done before she's back to 100 percent.

She will soon start a two-month long hyperbaric oxygen therapy, where she'll breathe pure oxygen in a pressurized room, for two hours a day, Monday through Friday, at WellSpan Wound Healing Center at York Hospital. The therapy will help heal the internal scarring left behind by chemo radiation.

She's not sure if she'll be able to have children, so she underwent a fertility treatment last year to retrieve her healthy eggs before her chemotherapy began.

"We don't know what condition her reproductive system is in because of all the treatment she received," Susan Weaver said.

As for the next steps in Weaver's career, she has decided to forgo physical therapy to instead become a nurse practitioner, the same position as those who took care of her at Johns Hopkins.

She's not sure of her role in the game of basketball but is keeping the door open to possibly coaching down the road. The last time she picked up a basketball was in June at the Dallastown camp.

"The first shot was an air ball," Weaver said. "I was like 'This is going bad and all these kids are gonna wish I don't get up again.' I think I shot three more times and all three of them barely hit the rim."

Weaver doesn't need a basketball in her hands to inspire anyone, though, as she proved when she spoke to the Dallastown campers.

"She provided great insight, like she knew she wanted to play college basketball and here's what she had to do, like putting in the extra work at practice," Manlove said. "And what's powerful is the next day we started having kids show up at camp an hour early and stay an hour after camp was over to shoot around. Within 24 hours her message was received."

-- Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.