A Life Filled With 'Cheer'
McDaniel, a cheerleader and student at the Christian Fellowship School in Columbia, died Friday from bone cancer at the age of 18. She was surrounded by family.
McDaniel had two wishes this spring - to go to Disney World with her six siblings and parents and to cheer with her teammates at the Christian School State Basketball Tournament in Joplin. She did both.
The latter is an event Amanda McDaniel refused to miss for five years.
"I'vebeen cheering since seventh grade, and you always cheer along withseniors all the way up, and your always like, 'I want to be there,'"Amanda McDaniel said.
In life, lessons are learned everyday. Many of those lessons you cannot teach in a classroom. It's the lessons taught by the people around us that can touch us so much more. It's a time when parents and students look back it's a year, families will never forget.
"Anytime you have senior activities they are always significant in a family," said Denise McDaniel, Amanda's mother.
Even if your school isn't always the champion.
"It's very small in size, not always the selection that some of the larger teams have for their sports teams, but filled with great kids who play really hard," Denise McDaniel said.
For Amanda, the road to Joplin hasn't been easy.
"It's been pretty crazy, you know, between being like a normal high schooler, and then finding out you have cancer," she said.
She found out she had cancer in fall 2006.
"Amanda had just returned from cheerleading camp, and began to complain about a pain in her knee," Denise McDaniel said.
One appointment with a mid-Missouri sports doctor changed everything.
"Unfortunately, that appointment led to an MRI, and that MRI showed us that a large tumor had formed on Amanda's left hip," Denise McDaniel said.
The diagnosis: childhood bone cancer.
"Amanda's very first words to after finding out were 'Can we fight it?'" Denise McDaniel recalled.
Her family answered, "Yes. Absolutely." She's received treatment nationwide. Through it all, she's an honor roll student, she dances, she climbs, and she plays soccer.
"You try not to change your world as much as possible, well at least that's been our families goal," Amanda said.
But in fall 2008, her disease worsened.
"They removed approximately 1/3 of her body," Denise McDaniel said.
Doctors amputated her left leg.
"When we started talking about that, I had an amazing peace that came over me, like it was OK," Amanda said.
Her attitude never wavered and her faith remained unshaken.
"Amanda has spent her life caring for others, caring about others, cheering others on," said Larry McDaniel, Amanda's father.
"Focusing on the bad doesn't really get you anywhere but focusing on the good, you know, that, at least, can make you smile," Amanda said.
Even in the hardest of times.
"We have recently learned that the cancer has continued to grow beyond the procedures, and the treatments, and the measures that we have taken," Denise McDaniel said. "Probably we have learned the most in the example of life is really hard for lots of people today in our country. "There are so many reasons to be sad and want to give up, but we are watching somebody everyday who has some really great reasons to want to do that and she never has."
"I would never want to have any other family to have to go through this," Amanda said. "My family has been very brave, but I don't think families need to go through it."
Her passion for life, her love of people, and her kindness for others goes further than the rolling hills of the heartland.
"She uses each day to the fullest, and she has taught us that there is joy in the journey, regardless of what that joy looks like," Denise McDaniel said.
For Amanda McDaniel that joy is a smile. That joy lives forever. Amanda's family said that's what she's brought to their life.